The Menin Road, Hellfire Corner & Hooge Crater Cemetery: The Menin Road was one of the main approaches for troops going up to the front. Hellfire Corner was so-called because, as a major crossroads during the war, it was regularly shelled by German artillery. A Demarcation Stone near the present-day roundabout indicates the high watermark of the German advance in 1918. One of the largest cemeteries along the Menin Road is Hooge Crater Cemetery which is on the rising ground leading up to the Gheluvelt Plateau. Looking towards Ypres from this location, the observation this piece of ground offered over the British trenches was important to both sides. Today it provides a useful orientation point in understanding the geography of the Salient. There were numerous actions fought for this position for almost three years. The crater (now filled in), after which the cemetery is named, was the result of a mine sprung by the British 175th Tunnelling Company on 19th July, 1915. The cemetery itself contains almost 6,000 casualties, of whom 3,570 (60%) are unknown.
Essex Farm Cemetery & Dug-outs: During the second battle of Ypres, the Canadian army surgeon John McCrae wrote "In Flanders Fields" here in 1915. The site of an Advanced Dressing Station, the surgeons' dug-outs, protected by the canal bank, can still be visited. The second youngest British casualty of the war, Private Valentine Joe Strudwick is buried here (photograph above). He was a month short of his 16th birthday when killed in January 1916. Created during the war, the arrangement of the graves in this battlefield cemetery contrasts sharply with that of "concentration" cemeteries created after the Armistice where the headstones are laid out in much more regular rows.
Pilckem Ridge Memorial to the Victims of the First Gas Attack (22nd April, 1915): Pilckem was the scene of the first German Gas Attack in April 1915 during the opening phase of the Second Battle of Ypres. A Memorial to the French and Algerian troops who died here marks this place. The Germans failed to press home their advantage before the breach was filled by the Canadians who held firm between this point and the village of St Juliaan. On the opening day of the Passchendaele Offensive, the 38th Welsh Division were in the line near this point with the task of capturing Langemark.
Passchendaele Memorial Museum, Zonnebeke: One of the highlights of a visit to this museum is undoubtedly the Dug-out Experience. A flight of steps takes students into the underground world of the Western Front. Here, as they walk along main passage-way, lit by electric lights, they will find rooms for soldiers' accommodation filled with bunk beds, a medical post, workshops and the continuous sound of a pump keeping the dug-out dry. Outside the main building there is a trench system divided into three sections. The first shows a British trench early in the war, the second recreates a German trench whilst the final section depicts a British trench of 1917/18 complete with A-Frame duckboards. Taken together, they demonstrate the different construction techniques and materials used to build trenches over the course of the war. Notable within the museum itself is the display on gas warfare which contains a cylinder similar to those used by the Germans in the First Gas Attack. There are also different varieties of gas shells developed later in the war as well as an array of gas-masks developed as counter-measures. There is also an interesting display on bunker construction showing how pre-fabricated a block-built bunker was assembled rapidly on the battlefield. Only the reinforced concrete roof of a bunker needed to be made "on-site."
The Menin Gate & Last Post Ceremony: This Memorial commemorates almost 55,000 Missing of the Ypres Salient who were killed between 1914 and the 15th August, 1917. They include soldiers from Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the Indian subcontinent who lost their lives in the Salient but who have no known grave. The New Zealand Missing, as is that nation's tradition, are commemorated on a separate Memorial at Tyne Cot. The Gate was ultimately too small to take all the names so a further Memorial was created at Tyne Cot for those soldiers killed from the 16th August 1917 to the Armistice. Their names are recorded on the panels at the rear of the cemetery. The Last Post is sounded every evening at 8.00 p.m. in a short ceremony commemorating the fallen of the Salient. Every evening, the traffic is stopped shortly before 8.00 p.m. Buglers from the local fire brigade then sound the bugle call of the Last Post before a minute's silence. They then end the service by playing the Reveille. In recent years the service has often been extended to include a wreath-laying, music from a visiting choir or band and the reading of a short extract (known as the Exhortation) from Binyon's poem For the Fallen:
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
The Cloth Hall & In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres: The Cloth Hall in the Grote Markt of Ypres was almost entirely destroyed during the war and rebuilt between 1993 and 1967 according to the original plans. Originally constructed at the end of the 13th century and completed in 1304, it was used to store the cloth on which the town's prosperity was based. It now houses In Flanders Fields Museum. The museum provides a range of eye-witnes accounts of the war in Flanders from soldiers, nurses, children and refugees. There are touch screens & video projections throughout. Each visitor receives a poppy bracelet containing a microchip that allows them to access four personal stories within the exhibits.
Passchendaele Ridge & Tyne Cot Cemetery: Tyne Cot is the largest British War Cemetery in the world with nearly 12,000 graves, of which nearly two-thirds are unknown. The names of 35,000 missing are recorded on the panels at the rear. The remains of two bunkers which formed part of the German Flanders I line still stand within the cemetery; a third is now under the Cross of Sacrifice. The Visitor Centre offers views across the Passchendaele battlefield and contains some artefacts which are the personal effects of soldiers of both sides killed in the battle.