At this time of year you will undoubtedly hear John McCrae’s classic war poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ being read as the country remembers those who died in WWI.Britain's 'premier' Meat Loaf tribute act vows show must go on after star's death
Flanders Fields is a name given to the battlegrounds of the Great War located in the medieval County of Flanders, across southern Belgium going through to north-west France.
From 1914 to 1918 Flanders Fields was a major battleground in the First World War.
A million soldiers from more than 50 different countries were wounded, missing or killed in action here.
Entire cities and villages were destroyed and left in tatters, two of which, Ypres and Passchendaele, became worldwide symbols for the atrocities of war.
Today, the region still bears witness to the Great War’s history with many monuments, museums, cemeteries and individual stories.
On August 4 1914, the German army invaded Belgium.
Flanders Field chronology
- First Battle of Ypres (19 October – 22 November 1914).
- Second battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May).
- Third Battle of Ypres (31 July – 10 November 1917).
- German Spring Offensive (April 1918).
- The final offensive (28 September – 11 November 1918).
- The Armistice of 11 November 1918.
In Leuven, 2,000 houses were burnt to the ground, together with its university library.
There was to be bad news for the Belgians as the fortress of Antwerp fell in October 1914. As a result, troops of the weakened Belgian Army withdrew behind the line of the River Yzer.
The First Battle of Ypres began in late September 1914, when the ‘Race to the Sea’ began between Allied forces and the Germans.However, flooding caused the water level between the Yser and the railway embankment at Nieuwpoort-Diksmuide to rise, bringing the battle to a halt.
This would result in a static trench warfare which would be the battleground for the Great War.
The Second Battle of Ypres started on April 22 1915 and the Germans launched a surprise attack, using of chlorine gas for the first time, killing Allied troops within minutes.
The British also took the hill occupied by Germans using underground mine war. On 17 April 1915, five mines exploded under the German position which literally blew off the top of the hill.
The fighting of the Second Battle of Ypres decreased with the British in control of the hill.
The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, destroyed the landscape and cost countless human lives.
Soldiers had to battle to elements, as well as the enemy.
A series of explosions created a huge man-made earthquake and soldiers fought not only against the Germans and also against the mud.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
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.
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