I would recommend the Cloth Hall in the City of Ypres to anyone, whether you wish to go further and tour the battlefields or just have your fill of it here.
The collection includes weapons, uniforms, photographs and diaries - all this as the history of the war is told in cold graphical detail.
When you have explored the museum, it is time to move on to the second location of the day ~ Tyne Cot Memorial.
The name Tyne Cottages or Tyne Cott was given by the Northumberland Fusiliers to a group of German Blockhouses, or pill boxes situated near the level crossing on the Passchendale - Broodseinde Road, three of these block houses still stand in the Cemetery.
Tyne Cot is now a resting place for nearly 12,000 soldiers of the commonwealth Forces, the largest number of burials of any commonwealth cemetery of either world war.
Next on to Polygon Wood and the Buttes New British CWGC Cemetery, on top of the Butte is a memorial to the Australian 5th Division and below are over 2000 headstones of the Bute cemetery. The small cemetery opposite is polygon wood and is the resting place of some 100 burials, mostly Newzealanders.
Now take a long drive towards Comines, Warneton then finally Ploegsteert also known as Plug Street by the Tommie’s, from here start at the Hyde Park Corner Cemetery.
The rotunda is know as the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing with the inside walls being inscribed with the names of 11,000 men, with no known graves, guarded to this day by two majestic lions, one baring its teeth....
Further down the road is Ploegsteert Wood, a wood that marked the bottom end of the Salient. Being about 2000 yards wide east to west and only 1000 yards north to south, this small area was never lost the the enemy.
One of the first officers to inhabit this wood was Lt. Bruce Bairnsfather, artist of many cartoons that would raise the spirits of many soldiers.
Drive back towards Messines and look out for the Church ~ it is said that a young Corporal Adolf Hitler sheltered in the crypt of the church during his service on the Salient, painting a number of water colours!
Continue now upto Hill 60 ~ so called because it is 60 meters above sea level.
Although only the outline of trenches can be seen here, it is well worth the walk around, followed by a look in the museum over the road (there is more than in just the bar!) The French lost the hill to the Germans in 1914 and it took until April 1915 to reclaim the hill, a mammoth task of tunnelling was undertaken by the 173rd Tunnelling Company, RE, and after two months a charge consisting of four 100lb bags of gunpowder was blown. Debris was thrown 300 ft into the air and spread a radius of 300 yards, whilst British, French and Belgian guns opened fire, a few days later the hill was back in British hands.
Further up the road brings you to Sanctuary Wood and Hill 62, where a Canadian Memorial Garden of Remembrance over looks the Salient.
Back to the Sanctuary Wood Museum, this is a place to linger and take in the horrors of war, with a fee of approx. 20 Francs you will be taken through the true pictures of war via photos and a collection of 3D viewing cabinets ~ these make essential viewing (although I would be careful of young children looking at them) these cabinets bring to life glass slides in a wonderful 3D effect, breathe in the air as you view to complete the experience!
Out into the Trenches, they are as original as Triggers council broom that had three new handles and four new heads, yet they are original in the fact that they follow the shape, twists and turns of the originals. Here you will get a true feeling of what it must have been like ~ especially if it has rained recently.
Back inside you can peruse some of the books for sale and some of the little gifts on sale, failing that refreshments are on sale or just look at the many artefacts around the bar.
The final destination is back to Ypres and the Menin Gate, I would anticipate that it is very late in the day, if its before 8pm visit one of the many hostelries in the town square and watch the world go by, but the main reason to be here starts at 8pm prompt - get there 10 mins early, especially in the spring / summer months when a large crowd is likely.
At 8pm the last post will be played, as it has since 1st May 1929, only to be interrupted by the Second World War. It is played by the dedicated people of the local Fire Brigade and Commonwealth War Graves gardeners, thank them -but please do not clap! this is a remembrance ceremony.
Afterwards take your time to walk around the monument.
Tour Info has map info and more details of the Sites, or you can follow the links in the text during reading.
Dont forget to check the news page for more places in this area.
Leave Sanctuary Wood now and go to Hooge Crater, this is one of the many craters that was created by tunnelling under the German trenches, filling with explosives then detonating prior to a push. There is a Museum in the church situated on the main road but also make a trip about 20 meters up the road to Kasteelhof Hooge Hotel, they have remnants of the war & details on the crater in the gardens, its free although they just ask for a donation, it is also a good place for food & drink.
Other placesto visit if you have more time are:
The Yorkshire Trench - a reconstruction of a trench excavated a few years ago
Memorial Museum Zonnebeke - incorporates a reconstruction of an underground shelter - this is a new museum and well worth the visit.
Saint Georges Memorial Church - go to the right after leaving the cloth hall and turn right at the end. Down the bottom of this road is St Georges, built in 1929 in commemoration of the many British casualties of the Ypres Salient.Look for George Togher - Grandad....
Essex Farm - now with a restored bunker where John McCrae wrote the poem “In flanders fields”(roll over the poppies at the top!
Poperinge - Toc House, during the war this was the place to rest and forget the war, it was a British Soldiers Club open to all ranks and Allies.