Total War in Flanders: From 3 june 2017 to end 2017

In 1917 the Great War escalated in Flanders into a Total War. Science, technology, industry, economy and society were the cogwheels of a war machine going at full speed. At the front, the scope and the severity of violence defied all imagination. An unprecedented number of troops, modern weapons and new technologies formed the machinery of armies that could no longer afford to lose. The huge destructive power of the artillery wreaked havoc in the landscape. 

Behind the front, the whole society was mobilised to keep the war industry going. Daily life became bleaker and the image of the opponent was reduced to that of ‘the enemy’. Today we still see the scars in the landscape and the places of remembrance and commemoration. The project ‘1917. Total War in Flanders’ connects the following locations in a route of exhibitions and information points.

In Flandersfields Museum (c)www.milo-profi

In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper

The thematic exhibition in the Royal Hall gives the visitor a general introduction to the Mine Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of Ieper. There is an important place in the exhibition for the work of the Australian war photographers Frank Hurley & Hubert Wilkins and the re-worked contemporary photos of Ian Alderman.

Three info-modules in the Ieper Salient, Entrance points Ieper

They explains the position of the Allied armies on the eve of the Third Battle of Ieper. At each location films reflect on the terrible storm that would soon break; a storm that was destined to dramatically reshape the landscape around Ieper.

Tyne Cot Cemetery Visitors Centre, Zonnebeke

An info-module tells the story of the landscape. Using an interactive panorama panel, the visitor will learn how to read the different layers of this landscape: what was the effect of the Third Battle of Ieper and what traces can we still find today?

Women visiting Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 (c) Westtoer

Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Zonnebeke

The imposing ‘Villa Zonnedaele’ mansion is the setting for a thematic exhibition about the crucial role played by the devastated landscape during the Battle of Passchendaele. Both armies were forced to adjust their tactics, their methods of attack and their logistical systems. The impact on ordinary soldiers, both physically and psychologically, was also immense.

Visitor Centre, Heuvelland

The thematic exhibition 'Zero Hour 07-06-1917: the archaeology of a battle' illustrates the material heritage left behind by the Mine Battle of Messines, in which a selection of excavated artefacts occupy a central position. The visitor will learn about the function of these objects during the battle and how they were rediscovered many years later. The exhibition also demonstrates how the wartime heritage has been dealt with in the years since the Great War came to an end.

St. Laurence's Church, Heuvelland

The church is the setting for the thematic exhibition 'Irish blood on Flemish soil'. Ireland has had a troubled history. Yet during the Mine Battle of Messines the 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division fought side by side. In view of their underlying political differences, it is justified to regard this as a unique act of partnership and co-operation. Even today, this collaborative participation in the battle has a strong symbolic value. 

Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (c)HenkvanRensbergen.jpg

Tourist Information Point (TIP), Mesen

The exhibition '100 New Zealand Faces of Messines' focuses attention on the enormous impact of the First World War on New Zealand. From a population of barely one million inhabitants, almost 10% travelled to the other side of the world to fight in the Great War. Using the stories of 100 individuals, the dramatic effects of the war on this small country are explored.

Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery Visitor Centre, Poperinge

An info-module tells the story of the preparation of this hospital site in the run-up to the Third Battle of Ieper. Nothing was left to chance, resulting in a tangible sense of 'the calm before the storm'. The full ferocity of this storm, when it finally broke, is best evidenced by the sheer scale of the site, the number of casualties it dealt with and the growing size of the neighbouring cemetery in the terrible summer of 1917.

Guynemer-Pavilion, Langemark-Poelkapelle

The Guynemer Pavilion houses a two-part exhibition, which tells the story of the role of military aviation in the war and the French participation in the Battle of Passchendaele. The part played by the French Army in this largely Anglo-Saxon offensive was crucially important.  Although that Army was in a state of crisis in 1917, it was still able to make a cautious but significant advance towards Houthulst Forest. Increasing use of military aviation was also made throughout 1917, evolving from a purely observational role to become an integral part of the war machine.

Belgian Military Cemetery, Houthulst

An info-module highlights the impact of munitions on the region in 1917. During the Third Battle of Ieper the concentrations of artillery were much heavier than anything previously seen. The number of shells fired by the guns reached staggering new levels. Even today, these munitions are still being found and their effects are still being felt...

Thematic discovery trails to follow on foot, by bike or by car interlink all these different WWI sites.

More information about the locations of the exhibitions and information points:

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