The Town of Ypres, Belgium
A beautifully restored Town with much to offer in it's Museums
Arriving at Ypres for the first time and having no idea of it's history, you would instantly see a Medieval Town full of little streets and the large square without any idea that most buildings, although rebuilt as close as they were before, are less than a hundred years old.
In 1914, the German Army advanced with great speed, their plan being to sweep around northern Belgium, over the French border thus penetrating deep into their target of capturing Paris from all angles.
The British along with their speedily mustered Allies rushed accross the Channel and dug in around the town of Ypres and managed to stop the invaders in their tracks.
In late 1914, the 'first battle of Ypres' took place and the Allies made strongholds to the north, east and south of the town and finally took the town itself back from the German forces. All seemed OK for a while, but in Spring 1915, the Germans threw everything at them in the second battle and took very commanding positions on the hills around the town. It was during this time that Gas was first used and many hundreds suffered severe injuries and death.
My Great Uncle was one victim of the gas attacks and spent the rest of his life in pain, bad vision and mentally tortured by the whole experience.
For over two years the situation became stalemate although intense fighting took place on a daily basis, the town was more or less completely destroyed and the once green farmland was a mass of mud and blown away tree stubs.
Then in Autumn 1917, the Allied forces, during the worse rain for many years, started their advance to take the high ground at Paschendaele, now known as the third battle of Ypres.
After enormous casualties, the battle was won and this would bring about the beginning of the end for WW1, victory was in sight, the troops, although fatigued by the fighting, were in better spirits and advanced toward their dream of peace and re-uniting with their families at home
But, the fighting never really ceased right the way through to November, still the town of Ypres was shelled and still folk at home were receiving the dreaded telegram to say their son, father or husband would not be coming back.
After the War, with money given by the Germans in reparation, the town was rebuilt as close as possible to it's former glory.
Today, you can sit in one of the many Cafes in the main square and look onto the great Cloth Hall and in one sweep of the eye, view the Menin Gate, the memorial to all those lost during a terribletime.