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Flanders Fields. A Place to Remember.

Zonnebeke Polygoonbos Polygonforest (c) Westtoer
Lightfront Zonnebeke West-Vlaanderen Belgium ©VISITFLANDERS
Belgische postkaart visit flanders (c) Milo-profi
Ypres (c) Toerisme Ieper
Diksmuide Dodengang IJzer (c) milo-profi
Flanders fields Museum Ypres (c)
Flanders Field
Visit Flanders

Flanders Fields. A Place to Remember.

story by: House of Travel

“… where the poppies blow…”: that’s what often comes to mind when thinking of Flanders Fields. For four long years of war, the region was the site of hopeless trench warfare, with countless victims. But what of Flanders Fields today? 

Located in Belgium, just north of the battlefields of France, Flanders has made a major investment in the commemoration of the centenary anniversary of World War I, upgrading museums and featuring new exhibitions and events that provide visitors with the opportunity to engage with the history of the war and understand the role their countrymen played in Flanders. 

The Australian and New Zealand forces of the Anzac Corps were transferred to Flanders in 1917. New Zealand soldiers were involved in some of most notorious battles in Flanders Fields in WWI.   

Still today the New Zealand Division is revered by the town of Messines for liberating it from the Germans in June 1917.  While the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917 witnessed the blackest day for New Zealand in WWI with 3700 casualties on one single day - the highest number since New Zealand’s post 1840 existence.   This battle also saw the death of Dave Gallaher, captain of “The Originals”, the first New Zealand rugby union team to be known as the All Blacks.  He is buried at Nine Elms Cemetery in Poperinge, where his gravestone bears the silver fern.  

The story of the New Zealand troops and their sacrifice lie scattered amongst the now peaceful and pastoral landscape of Flanders including points of commemoration in Tyne Cot, Polygon Wood, Gravenstafel and Broodseinde.

Flanders Fields is a true place to remember for New Zealand; to reflect on the impact of the First World War, and ultimately, to foster a message of peace and remembrance for the future.

Flanders Fields has not forgotten

Flanders is a very compact region, approximately 10% the size of New Zealand’s North Island.   The town of Ypres (Ieper) provides an ideal base for touring Flanders and the Western Front. The town was the main staging point for allied forces in the area, with thousands of Anzac troops passing through on their way to the trenches and battlefields. Following WWI Ypres was painstakingly restored to its medieval glory and today is a beautiful and vibrant town, providing a warm welcome and Belgian hospitality to New Zealand travellers.

Ypres is also home to the Menin Gate, the most famous Commonwealth memorial in Flanders and perhaps in the world. At 8pm each night the Last Post is sounded by volunteer buglers at Menin Gate in a deeply moving ceremony that pays respect to the fallen.

Surrounding Ypres, the landscape of Flanders Fields tells the story of the war through hundreds of monuments and cemeteries of great historical significance for people from all over the world, including New Zealand.  State of the art visitor centres, museums and tours guarantee an insightful and moving experience. And all points of interest are conveniently close to each other – and close to the major Anzac sites in northern France.

Were your ancestors in Flanders during WWI?

As part of the centenary, the In Flanders Fields Museum (Ypres) is compiling one single Name List of all victims from all nations, fallen on Belgian soil during WWI.  You can browse the list online. Assistance is also available for those tracing family history.

Check out this Somme and Ypres Tour, which gives you the opportunity to visit Flanders Fields.

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