The Battle Of The Mines
Grote Markt 34, Ieper
What better place to start our tour of Flanders Fields than in the hub of the WWI commemoration - the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’. Instead of a ticket, we get a white bracelet with a red poppy. The recently renovated museum, located in the impressive Cloth Hall in Ypres, highlights the story of the invasion, the trench war and the remembrance since the armistice, while focusing on personal stories. We take a deep breath and climb the bell-tower (231 steps!) to have a look at what were once the battlefields.
We make a short stop in the Kemmel Tourist Office (Polenlaan 1) to buy our tickets for the Bayernwald site. The Bayernwald site shows how the German army did very much the same as the Allies - dig mines and trenches and build bunkers. The site consists of two mine shafts, a trench system and four bunkers. A series of information panels give details of the events which took place here and explain what life during WWI was really like.
Drive to the village of Wijtschate, where in June 1917, the British undermined one of the highest German positions with 91,000 lb. of explosives. The explosion created 19 craters, the Pool of Peace being the largest and most impressive one. From the pool take a tour on foot to the nearby Lone Tree Cemetery and Spanbroekmolen Cemetery.
After a short drive we arrive at the Irish Peace Park. This traditional Irish round tower commemorates the Catholic and Protestant Irish divisions fighting side by side during the Battle of Messines and is meant as a symbol of reconciliation. Take a moment to read the poems and letters from fellow Irishmen that are sculpted in nine stone tablets and provide inspiration for both today and the future.
Sint-Laurentiusplein 1, Kemmel
We start our day in the new family friendly visitor centre of Heuvelland (opening February 2017). This interactive visitor centre explains how the surrounding hills had an impact on the war (more specifically the Battle of the Mines, June 1917) and how Heuvelland still bears the scars today.
Markt 1, Mesen
The information centre is located in the former town hall and explains the role of Messines throughout history, with the main focus on the First World War. The role of the New Zealanders during the mine battle of 1917 and the special symbolic value of the Irish Peace Tower are only a couple of the topics that are covered.