The Seabrooks (Australia)
In The Footsteps Of The Seabrooks
The three Australian brothers joined the Australian Imperial Force together in 1916. Theo (age 25) and George (age 24) were both privates, whereas their younger brother William (age 20) was soon promoted to Second Lieutenant thanks to previous military experience. The boys left Sydney in August that year as part of the 17th Infantry Battalion.
In June 1917, the brothers had finally reached Belgium, where the troops were busy preparing for the great offensive at Ypres. The Australian infantry’s first mission presented itself as the Battle of Menin Road, which began on September 20th, 1917 and was eventually won by the allies. For the Seabrook brothers, however, it turned out to be their first, last and only battle.
Shortly after midnight on the day the battle commenced, William Seabrook sustained severe injuries when a phosphorous grenade landed near Hellfire Corner, where he was leading his column to its starting position. William was carried off to a clearing station, but he succumbed to his injuries the following day. Meanwhile, George and Theo had reached their starting positions, and at 5.40 a.m. the attack was launched. As they waited for the order to advance on the enemy, a shell exploded, killing them both on their first day at the front.
While word of William’s death reached the boys’ parents a couple of weeks later, their mother and father never received clear information on what had happened to their two other sons. Although several sources claimed Theo too had died, reports on George’s whereabouts contradicted each other and up until her own death in 1929, Fanny cherished the hope that he might still have been alive.
10.00 – 12.00: Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
This museum perpetuates the everlasting memory of the bloody Battle of Passendale. As part of the project '1917, Total War in Flanders', the 'Villa Zonnedaele' Mansion is the setting for a thematic exhibition entitled 'Passchendaele, a landscape in war', which explains the crucial role played by the devastated landscape during the Battle of Passendale.
Berten Pilstraat 5 - 8980 Zonnebeke
12.00 – 13.30: Lunch
13.30 – 14.30: Polygon Wood
In the heart of Polygon Wood stand Buttes New British Cemetery and the New Zealand Memorial, commemorating 383 missing soldiers of the New Zealand Division. On top of the butte itself, there is a memorial to the memory of the 5th Australian Division. The wood also contains several wartime bunkers. On the other side of the road stands the smaller Polygon Wood Cemetery. A Dawn Service is held here every year on ANZAC Day (25 April).
Lange Dreve 5 – 8980 Zonnebeke
15.00 – 15.30: The Menin Gate
This monument is the most famous Commonwealth war memorial in Flanders. Its stone panels carry the names of 54,896 soldiers from the 'Salient', who were listed as 'missing in action' and therefore have no known grave. The names are those of British soldiers who died between August 1914 and 15 August 1917, and the soldiers from British overseas territories (with the exception of New Zealand) who died throughout the war, including Theo Leslie and George Ross Seabrook.
Menenstraat - 8900 Ieper
16.00 – 17.00: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
From 1915 to 1920 the hamlet of Lijssenthoek was the site of the biggest British evacuation hospital in the Ieper Salient. Today the cemetery is a silent witness to the cost of more than four years of war. 10,784 victims of the fighting are buried here, including William Keith Seabrook. As part of the project '1917, Total War in Flanders', an info-module tells the story of the preparations for the Third Battle of Ieper and explains how this hospital complex came to be so large.
Boescheepseweg 35 – 8970 Poperinge
Do you need more inspiration? Here you can find some additional itineraries for your trip to Flanders Fields!