1914 – 2014 preparations

2014 is coming by and hall be special, because it shall be a time to stand still and look at what people can do to each other and what for dangers there can be around when we are not careful.

A European grant of about £184,000 will help set up a major history project in the United Kingdom marking 100 years since the start of the First World War.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission signs in Fl...

Commonwealth War Graves Commission signs in Flanders (Photo credit: R/DV/RS)

The British remember the Great War more then the people in Belgium. But the Belgian government is aware of the possible growing interest in the conflict, likely to rise for the centenary. The Belgians do hear the till-bell sounding already. Council officials say the project will provide a welcome boost for the city’s tourism industry.

The Flemish Region is putting much time, effort and funding into First World War monuments right now, in the lead up to 100 jaar Grote Oorlog in de Westhoek (Centenary of the Great War in the Westhoek), the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Poperinge and Ieper (Ypres) became two special places in the hearts of the British.

For almost the entire duration of the First World War, Poperinge, situated a few kilometres behind the turmoil of battle on the Ypres Salient, became a 24-hour-a-day metropolis; in 1917 approximately 250,000 men were billeted in the area…near Ypres, remained one of the few unoccupied towns in Flanders.

Very quickly, Poperinge with a good railway connection to Ypres, became a natural destination for soldiers looking to find some relaxation. Occasionally it was shelled by a long-range German missile but, for the most part, Poperinge was untouched. It therefore soon became a bustling town full of shops, cafés and restaurants catering to the needs of war-weary troops. “Shall we pop into Pop?” became a popular catchphrase amongst British soldiers.

The importance of “Pop” soon became apparent to two British Army chaplains serving with the 6th Division: Philip “Tubby” Clayton and Neville Talbot. They decided to open up a soldiers’ club and began looking for a suitable site.

Coincidentally, a property owned by local hop merchant Maurice Coevoet became available. After his house was damaged by a stray German shell, he decided to move out of Poperinge with his wife and children. Negotiations began between him and the British Army, and a monthly rent of 150 Belgian Francs was agreed for the duration of the war. On the 11th December, 1915, in the centre of the lively metropolis, Chaplain Philip Clayton opened the “soldiers’ house” in the transformed large home of the Coevoet family. In that “Every Man’s Club” all soldiers were welcome, regardless of rank. It was named Talbot House, Toc H in the WWI phonetic alphabet, in remembrance of Neville’s brother Gilbert, who had recently been killed at Hooge. Right from the start, Talbot House was a different kind of soldier’s club: warm, cosy and inviting.  “It was just an ordinary house where ordinary soldiers could feel at home for a day or two,” explains Dries Chaerle, Talbot House’s curator. “They could buy postcards or soap in the small shop or write a letter home. They could read a book in the library or sit and smoke with their mates in the garden. They could even sleep here overnight.”

The first floor of the neighbouring hop store was converted into a concert hall for debates, movies and live shows. Talbot House grew to become one of the most important institutions of the British Army. The sign – “Every Man’s Club” – still hangs outside, indicating that Talbot House was for the normal soldier, not just an officers’ club.

Today they want to give an idea of the atmosphere and the sense of brotherhood in this Upper Room which “will be as real to-day as ever.”

But the big reality those men had to face was on the battlefield. And what happened there is remembered in Ypres while the wounded are remembered at the old hospital in Poperinge. “The Lijssenthoek field hospitals were busy throughout the war; every day at least one soldier died there,” says Annemie Morisse, who is leading the project there. “You can therefore find every single date of the year on a headstone in the cemetery – even February 29. This sombre fact reflects the unceasing daily nature of the Great War. It wasn’t just about major battles; it was four years of continuous, daily combat and death.”

Lijssenthoek provides a witness to more than four years of daily warfare in the Ypres Salient. It contains 9,901 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 883 war graves of other nationalities, mostly French and German. It is the second largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world (after Tyne Cot in Passendaele by Ypres).

Flemish and British representatives were in Ypres on Thursday, 11 November, 2011 to sign a new agreement that will ensure the maintenance and restoration of war graves in the region and a new visitor centre.

The agreement between the Flemish government and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) will see the two partners working to restore and maintain war graves in the part of West Flanders known as the Westhoek, where much of the fighting of the First World War took place. The CWGC maintains graves and memorials of more than 1.6 million war dead in 150 countries across the world, nearly 205,000 of them in Belgium.

The new visitor centre will be built near Zonnebeke, a municipality that includes the village of Passendale (Passendaele). The area was in the middle of the Ypres Salient during the First World War, and Zonnebeke was completely destroyed and abandoned until years after the Armistice.

File:In Flanders Fields and other poems page 3.png

"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most notable poems written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae who wrote it on 3 May 1915 during World War I, created in the form of a French rondeau.

From November 2011 the museum in Ieper (Ypres) shall be closed until June 2012. To remember this one of the most devastating conflicts in history of which the last witnesses have now passed away too, the In Flanders Fields Museum shall more than ever be the portal to the First World War in Flanders. The new greatly extended IFFM will open its doors to the public in June 2012: 50% larger, a completely new scenography, new angles, more personal stories, a more spacious museum shop… The interactive aspect of the museum visit will be extended even more to enable the visitor to discover and experience the WWI stories more intensively. From now on you will also have the opportunity to visit the Belfry tower and enjoy the exceptional views of the once so heavily troubled region.

De herinrichting van het In Flanders Fields Museum vraagt tot half mei 2012 een speciale verkeersregeling op de Grote Markt.

In Flanders Fields Museum, the battlefields, the war cemeteries, all reveal the truth about the Great War fought in Ypres. People shall be able to dive into Ypres’ medieval past in the town centre and pay a visit to the Cloth Hall on a beautiful market square of Belgium or go for a walk around the 17th Century ramparts. Every night at 8pm people can be touched by the Last Post, played  in memory of the soldiers of the British Empire and Allied Forced who fell in Ypres.

Naturally it shall be an occasion to be especially remembered. But we can put the question how far we can go to bring alternations to buildings or sites. There is the protected monument that the sheet hall is, but does not seem under supervision for the modern changes been done now. People wonder how it is possible that such a horrible metal door at the ‘dark’ gate could be placed, taking in consideration that such gate has never been there before.

The government should take care to blend commercialism closely with historicity. Though “First World War tourism in the Westhoek is of major economic importance,” as said Flemish heritage minister Geert Bourgeois, we should look to keep the sites in the original settings of those battle areas. “These tourists represent an economic input of about €35 million. The commemoration of the centenary of the First World War will be an occasion for the further growth of tourism in the Westhoek.”

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Written 2011 December 9

Preceding articles: 11 November, a day to remember #1 Until Industrialisation +

Dutch preceding articles / aansluitend bij Nederlandstalige artikels : + 11 november, al of niet vergeten #2 Vanaf de Industrialisatie

Next: Parade’s End and Saint Flora Castle

Update 2012 March 27

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Explore Ypres

Flanders signs agreement to restore war graves

In Dutch:

Corridor voor herinrichting Flanders Field Museum in Ieper

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  • John McCrae (theedexperience.wordpress.com)
    McCrae was appointed as a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery and was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. McCrae’s friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle, and his burial inspired In Flanders Fields, which was written on May 3, 1915 and first published in the magazine Punch.
  • The Missing of the Somme ~ Geoff Dyer (chazzw.wordpress.com)
    Selective memory is a phrase that is used pejoratively for remembering the things we want to remember and forgetting the things we’d rather forget. But do we really select what we remember? Do we have a choice?
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    Our understanding of history is also filtered by the events that we live through. When we live through cataclysmic events, our perception of the period prior to those events is changed. We may remember a period as bucolic, as a time of peace and tranquility, that was anything but that. Our memory selects and compares, evaluates and assesses: we come away with an altered view of the past (now distant), because of the impact of the recent.
    +
    And the monuments? Aren’t they really there for fear that we will forget? Aren’t they there to jog our memories? To remind us? Without the monuments, would we forget?
    +
    Armistice Day celebrations brought solemn praise and remembrance for those “sacrificed”, but those still living – the survivors – felt forgotten.
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    The triumvirate (War, Peace, and Preparedness) jockeys for position even today.
  • Journal For Poetry Challenge#7 08,01,2012 (willowdot21.wordpress.com)
    The Poem is so sad, it speaks of how so many young men died, cruel and painful deaths on the muddy fields and squalid trenches of Ypres. He talks about the larks bravely singing, as I see it he is alluding to the fact that life just goes on as this evil war raged.
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    What would those dead  men buried under Flanders field made of the tanks and foot soldiers of the 2nd world war. The young men of the 1st world war thought they were fighting the war to end all wars…………. Sadly they were wrong.
  • The Thin Khaki Line: The Evolution of Infantry Attack Formations in the British Army 1899-1914 (warstudies.wordpress.com)
    The transformation of British infantry between 1899 and 1914 was one of the most striking developments in an era of British Army reform. However, while the high quality of the British infantry of 1914 is well known, the process through which it was developed is often neglected.
  • REVIEW: The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began (macleans.ca)
    If there is a consensus among historians about any seminal event in human affairs, it’s that the First World War had to happen. Not necessarily in 1914 because an Austrian archduke was assassinated, but around then and for some excuse. Too many people with the power to make war happen thought it was the answer to their nation’s problems, and far too few had any idea what it would unleash: the deaths of nine million soldiers and the utter ruin of the old order.
  • Online research, part 4 (bennettgenealogy.wordpress.com)
    At the beginning of the war in 1914, the British Army comprised 730,000 troops but millions enlisted out of a deep sense of patriotism so that, by the end of the war in 1918, more than seven million men had seen action. Every detail of those soldiers’ army lives was noted in their record.
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    In general, everyone who served overseas received some form of medal.
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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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