by Janis / 2 comments

They’re Proud & Honoured to be the bearers

Visiting the city of Ypres in Belgium is such a touching experience and incredibly moving at times. This was to be our third visit to Ypres. Previously we hadn’t been able to give the city the dedication it deserved, the depths and layers of history that flows through Ypres’s cobbled lanes is overwhelming.

We love digging into the history of any destination we visit; however, with the city of Ypres and its heart-rending landscape, its past is coursing everywhere. Mindful that the WWI centenary falls in 2018, we wanted to discover how Ypres carries such a significant mantle for the rest of the world.

And oh, boy they do it well.

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The Ypres Cloth Hall at night
The Cloth Hall at dusk

In Flanders fields

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.

By John McCrae

Where is Ypres?

Discover more of Flanders and create your own tour around the poignant battlefields. It’s so easy to Visit Ypres on a road trip.

How to get to Ypres

- By Car

If you’re venturing from the UK, jump on Le Shuttle and tour Belgium under your own steam.

Alternatively, it’s so easy to visit on a road trip. Rental Cars searches multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

Ypres, was not to be beaten

Like a phoenix from the ashes
The Flemish city of Ypres is so delightful to stroll around and extremely easy to navigate on foot. The beating heart of historical Ypres is in the charming Grote Markt (Market Square) and the welcoming streets and lanes leading off.
Ypres, Courts of Justice at night
The Courts of Justice

Unbelievably the Market Square in Ypres along with its surrounding landscape was completely destroyed during the World War I. However, when you visit the beautiful city of Ypres today and admire the thoughtful restoration, particularly the Cloth Hall, you wouldn’t imagine it.

The care and attention to detail in rebuilding its magnificent architecture is a credit to city of Ypres.

Ypres, Grote Markt at dusk
The Grote Markt

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Exploring Ypres Cloth Hall

The rebuilding of a medieval marvel

All around Ypres’s historical Market Square are striking gabled homes peering down onto the bustling streets below. The beautiful eye-catching Ypres Cloth Hall which was so meticulously restored back to its Medieval style, stands grand and a tribute to its pre-war days.

Within Ypres’s majestic Cloth Hall now resides the poignant ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’. Historically the ancient 13th-century Cloth Hall would have been used as a market and warehouse, for Ypres’s thriving cloth industry.

The reconstructed Ypres Cloth Hall
The Cloth Hall

Where we stayed in Ypres

Our accommodation for the two nights we were in Ypres, was at the Novotel Leper Centrum, and it was undoubtedly central, only about a 5-minute walk to the Menin Gate. The car parking facilities here are fantastic if you’re on a road trip.

Visiting ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’

Remembering the First World War

During our trip to Ypres, we especially wanted to visit the poignant ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’, commemorating the unimaginable events which took place during the First World War.

We had heard that the exhibition was incredibly touching and in a small way conveyed some of the atrocities that these heroes went through.

The ornate Ypres War Victims Memorial carved of stone with brass inlays and brass statues of soldiers and a lion resting at their feet
Ypres War Victims Memorial

We purchased our tickets for the Ypres Museum and set off on an unknown journey to try and comprehend what lie ahead.

In addition to our entrance fee, we also bought a pass to climb the 231 steps to the top of the Belfry.

So, furnished with our individual ‘poppy bracelets’ we were ready to explore.

In Flanders Field Museum white wristband embelished with a red poppy, and the phrase 'In Flanders Field'
Your presonalised wrist bands

The wristbands are such a great idea, the red poppy contains a microchip, and once you have waved the bracelet over the Wi-Fi symbol, you have the option to key in a few of your demographics.

Entering in your basic data allows you access to personal stories around the In Flanders Fields Museum of four individuals who lived through WWI and gives you even more of an immersive experience.

Poppy info

You don’t have to enter your demographic details to access the museum, it just adds to your whole experience.

A most meaningful museum in Ypres

It opens your eyes
Visiting the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’ in Ypres is such an eye-opening experience, as you stroll around the exhibition, there is so much to understand and comprehend. The museum gives you an incredible thought-provoking insight into the reality of the First World War.
Enlisting posters, In Flanders Field Museum
Enlisting posters
A warhorse exhibit in the 'In Flanders Field Museum' in Ypres, Belgium
A War Horse
There are moving stories and photographs of folks from of all walks of life, poems read out by ghostly silhouettes. Posters encouraging youngsters to enlist and defend their country.

Important we never forget

A fellow comrade

One story in the Ypres museum that particularly caught my eye was that of Louis de Mahieu. Louis was a volunteer from Antwerp and died of his wounds on the WWI battlefield at Warwick Farm, on 31st August 1918.

To his fellow soldiers, Louis was unknown to them at the time, his comrades made a cross out of a wooden chair as a provisional resting place.

Louis de Mahieu’s body was not found until almost a year later in July 1919.

An exhibit in the 'In Flanders Field Museum' of a grave marker constructed from a wooden chair.
Cross from a wooden chair)

Climbing the Cloth Hall Belfry

Magnificent views across Ypres
During our visit to the ‘In Flanders Field Museum’ we paid an extra couple of euros to climb the 231 steps of the historic Bell Tower, it really is worth it. The incredible views that stretch across the city and beyond are fantastic. I only wish it had been a brighter day and we would have seen even further.
The view across Ypres to the east, from the Bell Tower, or belfry, of the Cloth Hall.
View across Grote Markt
The streets unraveled below us, and we could see far across the Grote Markt. Facing towards the Court of Justice in the foreground and then in the distance was the commanding sight of the Menin Gate beyond.
The view across Ypres to the Court of Justice and the Menin Gate from the Bell Tower, or belfry, of the Cloth Hall.
The Court of Justice and the Menin Gate

The World War I battlefields today

The search will always go on
Nearing the end of our visit to the Cloth Hall Museum you are given the opportunity to search for any fatalities from the World War on the museum’s database. Key in the victim’s name you are able to find the cemetery or monument where their personal remembrance can be found.
A collection of different headstones from the different nations that fought in World War One in the 'In Flanders Field' Museum in Ypres, Belguim
Headstones
Visiting the ‘In Flanders Field Museum’ is a very moving experience and one I encourage everyone to undertake. As you come to the end of your journey through the Cloth Hall, it’s utterly inconceivable that soldier’s bodies are still being found across Flanders landscape today.

WWI Stories

At the end of the In Flanders Fields Museum you can choose to have the stories of the four individuals you followed throughout the museum emailed to you free of charge.

If you’re heading off on a Belgium adventure, then grab a copy of this DK Eyewitness book. I love planning road trips and these guides are so helpful.

I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of the back roads.

Visiting the Menin Gate Memorial

Remembering Ypres Salient
The Menin Gate in Ypres must be one of the most poignant memorials to the Ypres Salient there is. The construction of this incredible arch was completed in 1927 and straddles the road where hundreds of thousands of troops would have marched on their way to the frontlines.
The bronze poppy wreath on a plinth on an island in front of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium
The Menin Gate
A view along the ramparts of Ypres with a moat in front and the Menin Gate.
Along the ramparts
The Menin Gate commemorates more than 54,000 soldiers from Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, who died before 16th August 1917 and have ‘No Known Grave’.
A stone engraving above an archway in the Menin Gate in Ypres, dedicated to those who fell at the Ypres salient.
In honour
We wander around the Menin Gate Memorial and try to comprehend the number of names listed. So many wreaths and so many messages are left by individuals, regiments, schools, and charities to honour these gallant soldiers.
A single tablet on the Menin Gate in Ypres, listing hundreds of names of the fallen in world war one who have no grave.
A fraction of the fallen
Poppy wreaths line either side of the staircase on the outer edge of the Menin Gate in Ypres
Wreaths

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

We owe them so much
While exploring Ypres as you can imagine there are so many cemeteries dotted around the historic city. Even with my fixation in visiting places of remembrance, that there are only so many memorials you can see in one day, but we certainly had a good go.
Old Imperial Wargrave Commission signs of white text on a green background identify 13 war cemeteries in Ypres, Belgium
The different cemeteries

We owe a huge amount to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) as they lovingly maintain over 23,000 war memorials and cemeteries around the world.

Along with the Menin Gate, we also visited Ypres Reservoir Cemetery which has 2,613 Commonwealth servicemen of which 1,034 of the burials are unidentified.

Commonwealth war graves in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Begium
Ypres Reservoir Cemetery
We took a stroll around the ramparts of Ypres, and yes, we came across the Ramparts Cemetery at Lille Gate. The tranquil cemetery is reasonably small and is built on a dugout which overlooks the riverbanks in Ypres, there are 198 burials of which 8 are unidentified.
Commonwealth war graves in the Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres
Ramparts Cemetery

Explore Ypres yourself

Visit the “In Flanders Fields Museum” in the Cloth Hall, and you must stay for the evening and attend The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

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The ‘Last Post’ service

Performed every evening in Ypres
Without any doubt the Last Post ceremony is one of the most moving services I have ever attended. This observance welcomes all walks of life no matter where you are from or your background everyone is appreciated, young and old, families and friends.
The iron black and gold Last Post sign on the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium
The Last Post sign
Astonishingly the Last Post Ceremony has been held at 8pm every evening since 1928 (except for a period during the WWII when the city of Ypres was occupied by Germany).
Crowds gather inside the Menin Gate in Ypres, awaiting the Last Post Ceremony.
The waiting crowd

Never the same

Every evening the ceremony changes, different bands play, and different regiments and families lay their wreaths. You can find out more details by checking out the Last Post Association website.
The buglers from The Last Post Association performing the Last post under the Menin Gate in the Belgium town of Ypres
Buglers
A poignant air of silence falls upon the crowd and heads are bowed, there are many tearful faces, young and old as the Last Post is sounded out.
A group of ex-servicemen laying wreaths at the Last Post Ceremony within the Menin Gate in Ypres
laying wreaths
A British Military Band marching at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium
A marching band

All around existing servicemen and veterans are wearing their proud uniforms lined with their thoroughly deserving medals. As our little tribute, we donned our Passchendaele poppy pins that we purchased in 2017.

With each Passchendaele poppy pin there is a tribute to a fallen serviceman, which led us to discovery their story further within the memorials of Tyne Cot & Passchendaele.

Arrive Early

If you want to be in the front row, I would suggest you arrive around 7pm. We arrived at 7:15pm, and we were two or three rows back.
A brass Royal British Legion Passchendaele Poppy Pin, with a red enamel centre and a green leaf, set in a pin display box.
Our Passchendaele Poppy pin

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  1. I have visited almst everywhere in Belgium, except for Ieper. I’d love to go there someday. Over the last years I’ve read a lot oabout the Great War (The Netherlands were neutral, so we don’t get taught so much about it in school as countries that were involved) and I feel like visiting Ieper would be a good addition to my ‘education’.

    1. It is a fantastic place to visit, as you say so much history. The ‘In Flanders Field Museum’ in the Cloth Hall is a must, if you want to learn more about the Great War.Also try and stay for the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, it’s held at 8pm every evening. It is incredibly poignant and moving, there is such a mix of people and ages it’s pleasing to see school children there.I hope you get to go

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