The Battle Of Passchendaele
Berten Pilsenstraat 5a, Zonnebeke
We start the day in the heart of the ‘Third Battle of Ypres’ or ‘Battle of Passchendaele’ as it is more commonly known. The name is a symbol of senseless military violence. The dugout tunnel with communication and dressing post, headquarters, workplaces and dormitories, gives us an idea of how the soldiers had to live underground, like moles, because there was nothing left above ground. It’s impressive, as is the Museum with its collection of historical artefacts, images, movies and dioramas. We end our visit to the museum outside in the trenches before heading into the park that surrounds the museum.
With its arched wall and colonnades in white stone, the Missing Memorial of Tyne Cot Cemetery instils respect. This is the largest military cemetery of the Commonwealth in continental Europe. Almost 12,000 soldiers are buried here. 12,000 white crosses, row after row. We stand in awe. On the Memorial Wall are the names of the 34,957 missing soldiers who fell after 15th, August 1917. It’s almost inconceivable.
Lange Dreve Zonnebeke
Deep in the heart of Polygon wood stands Buttes New British Cemetery and the New Zealand memorial to the Missing, which commemorates 383 soldiers of the New Zealand division who died in the Polygon Wood sector and have no known grave. On top of the hill, there is the Memorial to the 5th Australian Division. Polygon Wood still contains the remains of several shelters. Each year on ANZAC day (25 April), the sacrifice of the ANZAC soldiers is commemorated during an impressive dawn service in this very location. Polygon Wood Cemetery lies just across the other side of the road.
Hill 60 was captured by the 11th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment on 7 June 1917 during the Battle of Messines, when two huge mines were blown. One mine was blown on the hill itself, with a charge of more than 53,000 lbs, by the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company, whose memorial is on Hill 60 as well. They also blew the neighbouring Caterpillar Crater (width 80m, depts. 15m).