Ypres is a small town town which although is ancient and in some places feels old, most of it is reconstructed. With it being located in a strategic position during World War I, several massively destructive battles were fought around this area and the town, over four years of warfare, was reduced to rubble. Munitions and other artifacts from the conflict still turn up in the fields which have reverted back to famland.
The area is subject to many battlefield tours that visit some surviving trenches, many museums and memorials that are dotted around. Ypres along with the names of the Somme and Verdun is synomous with the slaughter that characterises World War I. After the war Ypres was rebuilt with the main square, town hall and Cloth Hall being rebuilt as close to the original designs as possible.
21 Nov 2008 - Ypres, BelgiumThe aim of my first visit to Belgium was to see the scene of the opening battle of World War II on the Western Front, the Battle of Fort Eben Emael. This small but significant battle entered the annals of military history for its exemplary planning, execution, daring and innovation.
Ypres is a place I've always wanted to come to on a battlefield tour because in this relatively small area some of the major engagements and most intense battles of World War I took place. However, Eben Emael was the subject of this tour so all the grim attractions of Ypres had to be put on hold for another time.
Ypres - The Cloth Hall at night I
The Cloth Hall was built in the 13th century and was one of the largest commercial buildings of the Middle Ages. The structure which stands today is the exact copy of the original medieval building, rebuilt after the war. The whole complex was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.
Ypres - The Cloth Hall at night II
The main square in Ypres has been impressively reconstructed to resemble how it was before war destroyed the town. Outside of the centre the buildings are more modern in appearance.
Ypres - The Menin Gate memorial
This memorial commemorates those soldiers of the British Empire - with the exception of New Zealand and Newfoundland - who fell at Ypres before 16 August 1917, who have no known grave. The name of each soldier is inscribed on the walls. The location is seen as poignant as it lies on the eastward route from the town which allied soldiers would have taken towards the fighting - many never to return. In reality, most troops used the other gates of Ypres as the Menin Gate was too dangerous due to shellfire.