"Tyne Cot and the Passchendaele Memorial Museum." Zonnebeke by leics

Zonnebeke Travel Guide: 22 reviews and 56 photos

'In Flanders Fields the poppies grow.........' John McCrae

The area around Zonnebeke is pretty and well-kept, its farms and farmland rolling gently away into the distance.

But in the Great War of 1914-1917 things were not like that. The whole area was destroyed, reduced to a treeless landscape of mud, trenches and bodies.

Passchendaele in 1917 was a muddy, bloody orgy of mindless and needless destruction.

Almost half a million Allied casualties, 140 000 dead (and many dying later).

Almost a quarter of a million German.

After the Third Battle of Passchendaele had been won, 5 miles of battle front had been gained.

Two men dead for every

Impossible to comprehend. Impossible to understand what it could have been like for those men, so many of them just boys (many British lads lied about their ages when they signed up.....the youngest known casualty at Passchendaele was only 15).

Tyne Cot is the largest Allied cemetery in the area, just up the road fom the small village of Zonnebeke. It is a 'concentration' cemetery. After the war bodies were collected from the smaller battlefield burial sites and re-interred here. The original 'Tyne Cot' burials still exist, their placement more random than those re-interred after the war.

There are 12000 men buried here, the majority 'A soldier of the Great War known unto God' : unidentifiable. Each has a white headstone, each has a plant or flower, the grass is beautifully mown and cared-for.

The names of those still missing from the battle are written on the Memorial Wall: so, so many. Nearly 35000.

There is a small, new visitors' centre. It has personal details of some who dies, personal items donated by their families, displays...very moving ones.

And, something which chilled me enough to finally bring the tears, a light, young female voice reading out the names and details of just 100 men (and boys) who died there. I made a small video to try to capture this: the sound is quiet, for I was outside (the recording is played outside as well).

Visiting Tyne Cot is an affecting experience, even if one has no link with the war of 1914-1918. It brings home, so very clearly, the utter waste and futility of those times.

Not far away from Tyne Cot is the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, housed in a rather lovely mansion in Zonnebeke.

They have re-created a British dugout within the museum, so visitors can get the tinest indication of what it must have been like to be in that battle. But only the tiniest indication, for there is no mud, and no smells, and the constant bombardment is muffled, and the tunnels and rooms do not constantly shake.......

But you have to visit the museum (and the 'In Flanders Fields' museum in Ieper) if you are to even begin to understand.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Impossible not to be moved
  • Cons:None
  • In a nutshell:Lest we forget
  • Last visit to Zonnebeke: Jul 2008
  • Intro Updated Feb 26, 2011
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Reviews (2)

Comments (2)

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Aug 8, 2008 at 11:03 AM

    Terrific introduction. 5-star tips. As an English teacher for 32 years, I have often taught "In Flanders Fields"...your information added to my inquisitive mind. Thanks for such dedicated work.

  • uglyscot's Profile Photo
    Aug 8, 2008 at 5:44 AM

    Very interesting. From my genealogical research, I have found some of those who were killed in various venues, including Tyne Cot.

leics

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