"The Pool of Peace" Wijtschate by leics

Wijtschate Travel Guide: 0 reviews and 1 photos

There are many First World War sites near the village of Wiytschate ('Wytschaete' or 'Whitesheet' at that time) . It lies on the Messines Ridge, an area of high ground held by the German troops and thus a vitally important target for the Allies.

Not that the village was there in 1916, of course.......like the rest of this part of Flanders it had been more or less been blown out existence, reduced to acres and acres of mud, barbed wire, shell-holes and bodies, 'living' and dead.

There are still many bomb craters to be seen, in fields around the village, full of water........nature has taken them back and they are pretty places now.

There are, of course, many small cemeteries dotted about.

But I stopped at Spanbroekmolen, the 'Pool of Peace'., about a mile from the village on the Wijtschate-Kemmel road.

To take the ridge, Allied troops tunnelled underneath it and laid mines, 19 in all. The best men were chosen for the task: experienced miners from the UK and South Africa, and the 'clay-kickers', men who would sweat and dig their way through the Flanders clay whilst above them the earth continually shook from a bombardment which still (after nearly a century) turns up enough unexploded shells for a monthly collection to be held. Imagine.......

It took 6 months to tunnel underneath the German post on this hill; it was ready by June 1916 but was not actually detonated until about a year later. 88 feet under the ground, 91000 lbs of explosives were laid: this was the largest of the 19.

When they were detonated, the summit of the this hill and all it contained simply ceased to exist. The explosion from those 19 mines was heard in London.

It exploded 15 seconds late, so it killed the Allied infantry who had already been ordered to advance. 'Friendly fire' is not a new phenomenon.

The Spanbroekmolen mine left a crater 250 feet wide and 40 feet deep.

In 1929 the crater was purchased by the Toc H organisation, and kept as a memorial. It is indeed a Pool of Peace now, a quiet spot in the countryside when one can ponder the agonies and destruction of the past.

From the information board:

Sap Started - 1st January, 1916

Completed - 26th June, 1916

Depth of Charge - 88 feet

Charge - 91,000 pounds Ammonal

Length of Gallery - 1,710 feet

Diameter at Ground Level - 250 feet

Width of Rim - 90 feet

Depth Below Normal Ground Level - 40 feet

Height of Rim - 13 feet

Diameter of Complete Obliteration - 430 feet

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Thought-provoking
  • Cons:None
  • In a nutshell:To understand the carnage, just a little
  • Last visit to Wijtschate: Jul 2008
  • Intro Updated Feb 26, 2011
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