Passchendaele: a walk through history

TEXT: ELLA PUT | PHOTOS © MEMORIAL MUSEUM PASSCHENDAELE 1917

The Flemish town of Passchendaele formed the backdrop of the most famous battle in the First World War. In the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, the story of that significant time in history is being told.

Close to Ypres is the rural village of Passchendaele. With its calm atmosphere, it may be hard to imagine that one of the most horrifying battles in the period of the First World War took place here. But, upon looking closer, there are traces to be found that can take visitors back to that time.

In the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, visitors can explore what happened in Flanders Fields during the infamous battle. “It’s a strange coincidence, but the name of the town couldn’t have been more suitable,” director of the museum Steven Vandenbussche explains. “Passchendaele was the dale of passion. In 100 days’ time there were more than 600,000 casualties. Young men lost their lives, went missing or were wounded. This place has become an international symbol of the violence of war in its most horrific form.”

In the museum, visitors can also learn more about the battle through an interactive indoor and outdoor tour. Vandenbussche: “When you step into the museum, you step into a time machine. People say that it feels like going back a hundred years.” Visitors will be taken to the trenches, as well as to the dugout, an underground tunnel complex. Furthermore, they can learn about the landscape that played a significant role during the battle and experience the life of the soldiers.”

“You can try on a soldier’s uniform along with the heavy backpack they would carry for days, but also touch different objects or get the opportunity to experience the odour of war. By letting visitors see, listen and try things, we hope to tell the story through all senses.”

The museum also provides information about those who fought in the battle. “The battle of Passchendaele was fought by men of many nationalities, and people from all over the world contact us to find out what happened with their ancestors. Their curiosity sometimes takes them from faraway places such as New Zealand or Canada, in order to discover their family history.”

Vandenbussche: “Even though the battle of Passchendaele happened more than a hundred years ago, the history is still very much alive today. And the story will be told forever.”

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