Western Front on the Beach

The Western Front ran for more 450 miles from the Belgian coast to the Swiss Border. At the Belgian end the trenches petered out in the sand dunes near to the Belgian town of Nieuport. Soldier-author Charles Douie fought in the area with the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment in 1917 and left this description of the sector:

Nieuport was not greatly different from other towns lying in the near vicinity of the front line. Nieuport Bains, a summer resort lying at the mouth of the Yser and adorned by the usual gimcrack villas, was levelled nearly to the ground… War seemed more than usually odd as one sat in some convenient fold of the dunes and watched the waves lapping belts of wire on the shore and the play of machine guns over the sands where but a short while before men and women had kept holiday and children had built sand-castles.

Today the beach at Nieuport is once more a popular seaside resort as it had been before the Great War and there are few signs of the conflict, aside from the odd strand of barbed-wire found in the sand at low tide.

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