FLANDERS WWl. FORGIVEN BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN! Part 3.
We travelled on our minibus to Diksmuide, beside the River Yser.
The entrance to the museum is an 84mts high gravestone!
10 people are buried here; nine Finnish and one French.
As we were walking along the path to the high tower, the bells, all on the front of the tower, started to ring. A beautiful sound to greet us.
There are signs all around the tower, declaring No More War!
It took 23 years to build and complete the tower. Everything was done with donations and voluntary help.
The recently renewed Museum on the Yser focuses on the Belgian-German military confrontation during the First World War as well as on the Flemish Emancipation. It emphasises the message of peace with the slogan ‘What remains of our lives? What remains of the country?’ What remains of our lives? How did the soldiers try to live a normal life at the front? What did people take with them when they had to flee all of a sudden? How did the front line soldiers try to deal with the traumatic experiences of the war once they were at home? In this exhibition the message of peace is presented in an implicit way. What remains of the country? This question refers to the scars in the landscape caused by the war and creates connections with the further surroundings of the Yser valley. It also refers to the Belgian patriotism at the beginning of the war as well as the Flemish nationalism and the Flemish Movement during and after the First World War. From the panorama hall on the roof terrace, 273 feet above the ‘Flanders Fields’, you have a unique view over the entire area from Nieuwpoort by the coast to Ypres and Ploegsteert. All WW1 sites are clearly signposted.
On each floor, films are shown, or there are displays of various items.
A photo of a dead horse being butchered wasn’t very pleasant. But as meat was in short supply, you can’t blame them.
There were photos of Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo on 28th June, 1914, starting World War 1.
He was supposed to commit suicide after the killing, and he turned his pistol on himself. But the police grabbed him and stopped him. And as there was no capital punishment there for anyone who was under 20 when their crime was committed, he died in prison of tuberculisis.
But Gavrilo didn’t just kill two people. He killed millions!
We went up in the lift, then climbed the final 59 steps to the roof.
There’s a clear view in every direction. Flanders is a flat area, and we could see right to the seaside town of Nieuwpoort, several miles away.
The Belgians flooded the area to stop the Germans’ progress. And they also blew up their own bridges.
Afterwards, we crossed one of the rebuilt bridges and climbed aboard the Yserstar boat and cruised along the Yser to the Death Trenches.
400 kms of trenches were dug out and built up with sandbags. Now there are 370mts left.
They were built in short, zig-zagging lines so that none of the enemy could come along and kill them with a long, direct line of fire.
It’s impossible to believe that the men ate, slept and went to the toilet in this permanently flooded Hell.
The soldiers were all filthy, and encased in layers of mud. While they slept, they were often attacked and bitten by rats.
Oh those poor men. And all because our Politicians couldn’t get on.
I’ll bite my tongue and I won’t say any more.
After this eye-opening experience, we re-boarded our boat and cruised on to Nieuwpoort, enjoying a leisurely lunch of soup, sandwiches, and of course, Belgian beer!
I noticed that, apart from the birds flying overhead, all the ducks were on the starboard side of the boat. Then someone said that they were all on the sunny side of the river. And they were! Sunbathing ducks!
We arrived in Nieuwpoort and our minibus was waiting for us.
The we travelled to Lille Station where we caught the Eurostar back to St Pancras.
Yes, it was very emotional in parts, but it was still a very enjoyable, enlightening experience.
Talbot House http://www.toerismepoperinge.be/en/page/3021/sleeping.html
Lijssenhoek Cemetery http://www.lijssenthoek.be/en
Poperinge – Heavy Traffic exhibition http://www.poperinge14-18.be/
Museum on the Yser “ Yzer Tower” http://www.aandeijzer.be/