Hooge Crater Cemetery has 5,923 graves; more than half of them are unknown soldiers. One of the great Silent Cites of Flanders it sits on a ridge astride the Menin Road close to where flame-throwers were used for the first time against British troops in July 1915 and was the scene of intensive mining activity as tunnellers fought beneath the Western Front.
Filming cemeteries like this for the Above The Battlefield project helps show the sheer scale of loss and the size of war cemeteries like this one.
The trench system at Main de Massiges, a hillside in the Champagne battlefields that was the scene of heavy fighting in 1915 and became almost a household name in France, is one of the most impressive on the Western Front today. Trenches have been excavated and restored by a local association as can be seen in this aerial image.
Known by very few visitors to the battlefields the Main de Massiges trenches feature on a new Leger Holidays battlefield tour and just last week were mentioned in a report on the Champagne battlefields in the Daily Mirror.
Some more photographs of the trenches here will follow on WW1 Revisited.
Hooge was a small hamlet on the Menin Road east of Ypres and the scene of fighting from the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914. By 1915 it was very much on the front line and saw the first use of flamethrowers against British troops in July 1915 and became an area of intensive mining activity beneath the Western Front.
Hooge Crater Cemetery was a post-war burial ground and made by clearing the surrounding areas where fighting took place. There are 5,923 graves here and the entrance has a round feature symbolising the mine warfare that once raged here. Directly opposite is the superb Hooge Crater Museum.
One thing I am discovering from the Above The Battlefield project is that these images and film help show the sheer scale of some of these Great War sites and this is certainly true with this view of Hooge Crater Cemetery: it clearly demonstrates what a vast Silent City this is.
The village of Serre was in German hands from September 1914. Sitting on a rise, the trenches on the slopes surrounding it dominated the Allied positions. On 1st July 1916, the First Day of the Battle of the Somme, men from northern Pals battalions of the 31st Division attacked here achieving very little but suffering heavy losses. One epitaph on these men, from John Harris’ Covenant With Death, reads:
Two years in the making, ten minutes in the destruction… that was our history.
Serre is a special place to me as I interviewed several veterans who were here on 1st July 1916 including two that took part in the assault, and one – a signaller – had to stand close to where I filmed one part of this and watch his battalion, and people he had grown up with, be mowed down in No Man’s Land. It was them I was thinking of as I flew the drone across the battlefield here, starting from a point where the Leeds Pals attached at what is now Serre Road No 3 Cemetery across to where the Accrington Pals were at Queen’s Cemetery. In the final sequence Railway Hollow Cemetery is seen behind the copses and in the distance Luke Copse Cemetery.
Trenches that look anything like what they did a century ago are very rare but this site in the Champagne is quite amazing and has featured on this site before.
This image was taken this week looking out across the fields where the fighting was very heavy in September 1915.
A full article on this site will appear on WW1 Revisited this winter.
On this 98th Anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme, this image of the Thiepval Memorial was taken with the Phantom Drone being used for the Above The Battlefield project.
Good friend and author Mary Freeman, author of Poets & Pals of Picardy, coined the phrase ‘Mighty Thiepval’ which sums up what the memorial is about very well indeed – it can be seen all over the Somme battlefields and dominates the Thiepval ridge on which it stands.
When first constructed in 1932 the Thiepval Memorial commemorated more than 73,000 soldiers who fell on the Somme who have no known grave. Since many have been found and reburied in the Somme’s Silent Cities but today the total of 72,193 names still makes it the largest British war memorial in every sense from the number of men it commemorates to the size of the structure.
Prowse Point Military Cemetery was started in late 1914 by men of the British 4th Division who served in this sector from the end of the First Battle of Ypres through the first winter of the war in 1914/15. Units of the division took part in the Christmas Truce here in December 1914. The cemetery has 217 graves.
The film shows a typical battlefield cemetery from the early war years along with the new reconstructed trenches which form part of an international commemoration of the Christmas Truce to take place in December 1914.
Today I was in Flanders visiting the area around Ypres. Close to the village of Ploegsteert, or ‘Plugstreet‘ as the British Tommy called it, I went to Prowse Point Cemetery, in modern Wallonia and near to where the Christmas Truce took place in December 1914. An international event is taking place here this year for the centenary of the Truce and as part of this a set of trenches is being constructed alongside Prowse Point Military Cemetery. Some film of this will be coming soon as part of the Above The Battlefield project.
Above The Battlefield is a new WW1 Revisited project which will feature film of the Great War battlefields taken from an aerial drone, in this case a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+. The traces of the Great War are found all over the Western Front but at times it is hard to see them properly. By filming them from above this will add a new dimension our understanding of the battlefields as they are today.
A test filming trip was made to the Somme last week and this short trailer features some of the film from this trip; this gives a taster of what is possible and more filming will take place this winter, with future videos released via the WW1 Revisited YouTube Channel and this website in due course.
This week marks the centenary of the start of the First Battle of Ypres when the men of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) defended the ground around Ypres for the first time in what would become almost four years of constant fighting in this area.
The magnificent Black Watch Memorial at the site of Black Watch Corner near Polygon Wood overlooks the battlefield where a century ago the Old Contemptibles fought their largest battle of the 1914 campaign which will be remembered in Flanders this week.