Funerary and memory sites of the First World War
The Funerary and memory sites of the First World War (Western Front) testify to the unprecedented scale of a global war and mark the start of a new tradition of remembering the war dead.
After this war, for the first time, the individual victim was remembered. This resulted in military cemeteries and war memorials of diverse typologies where attention was paid to aesthetics. These sites still are visited by millions.
Community Perspective: The sites comprise 139 locations in Belgium and northern France. Notable is that the"commemoration of all victims is equal irrespective of nation, race, creed or military rank, the graves and engravings of names are uniform". Especially recommended to visit is the area around Verdun, which "is basically one whole cultural/memorial landscape shaped by World War I".
Map of Funerary and memory sites of the First World WarLoad map
Visited September 2023
I know it means nothing and will change nothing, but I am against this kind of inscriptions! UNESCO is opening the door to any national or international conflict. Even if the monuments to the dead are of the highest artistic value, I cannot forget that they were constructed and built to commemorate also those who were killing, not only defending themselves – for me it is a shame that we make passed or recent wars something to appreciate – and UNESCO list should be made of sites that merit to be unique in a positive way… You can ask me: why you visit these cemeteries and monuments? I visit lots of places, these one amongst them. But not to make them something special, rather to remember that conflicts make conflicts and wars make wars. There are others who do not share my point of view and my point of feelings… For some of them to put something on a pedestal means fighting, fighting without any reflection… I do not even want to imagine that in some years (probably I will not be here anymore) UNESCO World Heritage List (Liste du Patrimoine Mondial de l’UNESCO) would be dotted with war graves and war symbols… Thousands of crosses (like on the picture) do not make me be proud of…
I visited several minor Belgian locations and cemeteries of this tWHS over the past years and in May 2023 I focused mainly on the French locations around the Ossuary of Douaumont. The latter visit fully convinced me that this tWHS truly possesses tangible OUV as the area around Verdun is basically one whole cultural/memorial landscape shaped by World War I.
The Douamont Ossuary is managed by a private foundation that clearly underlines that the site is "non-subsidised since 1919 although recognised as promoting the public interest". I tried to keep this in mind when paying the 7 euro ticket for a well-presented overview view video and the chance to visit the "cloister" and climb the 46 metre tower known as the Lantern of the Dead, which contains a 2 tonne bell which is struck at 12 and at 4pm. The tower is given this name as it partly lights the battlefield and the necropolis at night and the panoramic view of the cemetery from the top gives you a better idea of the sheer size and landscape shaped by war. On either side of the entrance to the tower, the 133 metre main gallery is home to 46 cenotaphs in 18 alcoves. These symbolic tomb stones cover spaces containing the remains found in various areas of the battlefield. Without paying for any ticket, these spaces and countless bones and skulls can be seen through the windows located at the rear of the monument. In the cloister, the names of more than 4,000 soldiers who never returned from the battlefield of Verdun, regardless of their nationality and their religion, have been engraved and painted on the walls and new names keep being added every year. At the end of the cloister is a shield, where the memorial flame is relit during cerimonies.
Outside, I made sure to visit the Muslim and Jewish funerary monuments, the Fort of Douamont, other small monuments scattered here and there. I did part of the forest trail of Thiaumont just behind the ossuary, before I was overwhelmed by mosquitoes, and then I decided to continue hiking opposite the ossuary towards the few remains or memorials of the destroyed villages of Douamont and Fleury-Devant-Douamont and the museum of Verdun. In my case, the locations around Verdun were excellent to portray the OUV in a tangible way, apart from the intangible aspects of this tWHS. In the near future, I hope to be able to visit other important sites, above all Thiepval, hopefully after this transnational site gets inscribed.
July/August 2018 - I learned quite intensively and detailed about the Grand Guerre. In German schools WW2 and the prior rise to power by the Nazis is extensively discussed, but without understanding the reasons and the effects of WW1 it doesnt really make sense.
With crossing of the border we arrived in the zone rouge. It is not only devistated by mining but also due to the war. North of Arras, we came through crater landscapes, where you can still see the trenches, were French/British troops were fighting the German troops. Quite impressive, that it has fomred this area so much. East of Amiens we visited the Australian cemetery (a frightning amount of graves) where you wonder why Australians, Arabs, Maoris, Chinese, and, and and were fighting for nonsense in European dexterity. We went further to Albert and the Lochnagar-Krater (dont understand why this is not on the tentative list). The touristic scope seems to be mostly on WWI in this area.
Towards the end of our roadtrip we crossed the region around Verdun. more than 1 million soldieres died here within one giant battle. There are many sites around here that shall be visited: Fort de Douaumont was already built before in preparation of a Franco-german war, but the most impressive, thoughtful places is the Douaumont Ossuary which holds the remains of 130000 unidentified soldiers.
WW1 is probably the most perverted event in history that evolved due to strengthening of nationalist ideas. It was the last static battle in Europe, a warfare between armies to battle only for the sake of killing each other. Germany lost WW1, was heavily injured in pride, democratic changes did not flourish, and the rest of the story...(another WHS is remebering us of that), The sites of WW1 should definitely be inscribed, but now after seeing zone rouge, I think the scope of the TWHS is too much on the cemeteries. The devistated landscapes, the towns that suffered bombardement, the railways, that brought new soldiers. All that could be considered as well.
There is clearly an opposition to glorify war memorials by the advisory board and I used to agree until I visited the sites in Belgium and France to see the WWI funeral sites. These do not glorify the war at all. They instead remind us how countries bonded together to protect each other, something I don't see as black and white in today's political climate.
Right from the start these sites are pretty grim. They do not talk about “victory”, only about the losses of protecting Belgium and France. I am not going to go into the war details, that you can read up online of course, but it clear to me that these sites differ from any war memorial in the world's including Pearl Harbor, funeral sites in Turkey, Normandy beaches, countless others. The main difference is that these sites tend to show their own losses in war and how they won or suffered, not how the world came together to protect from “evil”.
The main highlights to visit are Tyne Cot cemetery and Menin Gate. Each doesn't take long to see but gave me lots to think about. If you can time your visit with an event at the gate you are even better off.
"You want to go where?" my aunt asked me. "La Grande Tombe de Villeroy, it's just next to Meaux, we can pass it on our way to the airport."
You need to know my mother's family is from Meaux, a town East of Paris. And indeed when coming from the East (Epernay) and heading to the world's worst airport (Charles de Gaulles), you pass within a few kilometers of the site.
My aunt asked again what precisely I wanted to see there. "A Nécropole, must a big thing" I said. Now my French is okay, but not perfect, so my aunt was trying to make sure she didn't misunderstand me. Eventually, she accepted that I meant the tomb. But she corrected me: "It's not a big thing, it's a small sign along the road." I couldn't quite fathom this information (Nécropole, Grande Tombe?), so I quickly googled the site and indeed: La Grande Tombe is pretty tiny. Most people in nearby Meaux wouldn't even know about it. But thanks to an inquisitive friend my aunt had been before and was able to counsel against a visit. Instead we stopped in Dormans on our way to the airport.
Dormans was my second site of the serial nomination. I had been to the cemetery in Arras just next to the Vauban fortification a year prior. In Arras you will find a simple toned down cemetery. Dormans is different, already signified by the address: Avenue des Victoires (Victory Avenue). The site itself lists all the corps, armies, generals, ... having fought in and having won the two battles of the Marne. And commemorates all the fallen French who gave their lives. The architecture is also more prideful: a big tower on a hill.
Initially I thought this would be a shoo-in for inscription in 2018. Instead the decision was adjourned by two years. As I understand it the rationale for adjourning was that the sites were still too glorifying of war.
Of the two sites, I feel the cemetery in Arras would be a fine addition. The Memorial in Dormans meanwhile would not be: It's really not a neutral monument to the victims of war, but a nationalistic monument for the victory in key battles of the war. Similar, I fear that Verdun, Compiegne, and the Somme are too related to key victories of the war to really separate the nationalistic component of the memorials from the commemorative one.
Personally, I would favor a streamlined inscription focusing on the less nationalistic parts, especially those where soldiers of both sides are buried. In any case, next time I am in the area, I will visit more.
Travelling in Northern France you will be hard pressed not to run into one of the sites. Lens has several components in the proximity. If you are travelling from Paris, Compiegne seems a good choice. It will also offer you a glimpse into a royal palace and the train wagon where the armistice was signed.
The sites related to WW1 are of great universal significance. The conflict had a huge impact not only for the people who were involved in it but also for all mankind. It took human people from the era of artisanal and local war to industrial and global war. The site also embodies the need, following the conflict, to honour and remember, on a large scale, those who fought and suffered. For the first time, anonymous fighters were honoured as much as famous heroes.
I have visited sites in Verdun, Somme, Chemin des Dames, Westhoek and other parts of Belgium. To me, the most striking testimony of the conflict is around Verdun. The whole landscape around the city has been modified by the conflict, from fully destroyed villages to forts, from forests in which traces of bombs are still visible to cemeteries.
The cemeteries and memorials of World War I are on the list of missing sites on this website (no. 50), and I also voted for them. Back then my vote was based on information from articles and TV documentaries and on a visit to Verdun at the age of 16. In 2015, I had the opportunity to visit some of the proposed sites at two occasions: a revisit to Verdun in April and several sites near Reims and Amiens on our trip through northern France in September.
The French part of this transnational site comprises 80 elements evenly distributed along the line of the western front from the Belgian border to the Vosges. Actually the list is more than twice as long because a lot of the locations are further divided into sub-locations. The selection was made from more than a thousand potential sites and some principles are apparent: a) the geographical distribution, all regions along the course of the front are represented; b) the variety of sites: huge national memorials but also small monuments dedicated to individual persons or certain events; cemeteries of all sizes, some with only a few dozen graves and others with an inconceivable number; c) all involved nations are represented.
The commemoration of all victims is equal irrespective of nation, race, creed or military rank, the graves and engravings of names are uniform. But there are differences between the nations in the style of the cemeteries and graves. Certainly, the most striking difference is that the crosses of German cemeteries are black or dark gray, made of stone or iron. The memorial sites of the Allied Powers are in white.
We visited the following sites (number of the T-list entry in brackets):
The Red Zone of Verdun (53a-f) - Verdun was one of the longest battles of WWI and is a symbol of the futility and horror of an endless trench warfare. Today it is also an important symbol of the Franco-German reconciliation. The forests around Verdun are full of remains of the battle: trenches, forts and bunkers. They still find munitions and artillery shells or skeletal remains, like during the new construction of the Verdun museum.
Six locations were selected for this nomination. Apart from the importance of the Verdun site, the Ossuary of Douaumont (53a) is also an architectural gem. It is a 140-metre-long building with a central tower, the interior is a vaulted hall with memorial stones and grave slabs. The main ossuary is on the lower level, where chambers are filled with remains of at least 130.000 unidentified French and German soldiers. This part is not accessible, but the bones can be seen through small windows on the back of the building. You have to pay an entrance fee to climb the tower and to see a film about the Verdun battle. From the top of the tower you have a nice view on the French cemetery (53b) on the slope in front of the ossuary. The site further comprises a Jewish (53c) and a Muslim (53d) memorial, located at the edges of the cemetery. One kilometre northeast is Fort Douaumont (53f), one of the rare memorials that also includes battle grounds. It is part of the nomination mainly because there is also a cemetery within the fort, a few hundred Germans were buried in a walled-up casemate. Finally, the ruins of the Village of Ornes (53e), one of the villages that were destroyed in the Verdun battle. The ruins of the church and a new memorial chapel can be visited.
In September 2015, we visited sites around Reims and Amiens:
The Monument of the Marne Victory in Mondement (44) - between Provins and Reims, a 35-metres-high reddish monolith, the main relief depict the commanding generals of the first battle of the Marne. Not typical for the memorials that we saw later on the trip.
The German cemeteries in Veslud (27) and Saint-Quentin (28) - two examples for the style of German cemeteries: unadorned black crosses under tall trees, there are no flower beds or trimmed hedges, it is more like a forest and differs from the cemeteries of the Commonwealth or the US which are reminiscent of gardens or parks.
Rancourt (17) - next to each other a French (17a, with a chapel 17b), a British (17c) and a German (17d) cemetery, but not exceptional, we stopped in Rancourt because it was on our route to more interesting sites in the Somme region. The British one is a good example of a small-sized cemetery with only a few rows of graves.
Longueval (16) - the South Africa National Monument (16a), an arc-shaped structure between tall trees, behind the archway is a museum that commemorates the dead of the two great wars and the Korean war. Opposite is the Deville Wood Cemetery (16b) (lower photo), here we saw for the first time typical elements of all larger Commonwealth cemeteries: neoclassical structures with pillars, the Cross of Sacrifice, and the Stone of Remembrance with the engraving "Their name liveth for evermore". In the area are more cemeteries (16c-16h), most remarkable the London Cemetery (16g) with a memorial made of red bricks.
Battle of the Somme (14) - one of the most extensive sites with 12 sub-locations. The Pozières British Cemetery (14k and l) is really exceptional and was one of my favourites. It is located just outside of Pozières on the road D929. We were really surprised as the striking gateway suddenly popped up at the roadside. The cemetery is surrounded by walls and colonnades on all four sides (upper photo). The wall panels list names of more than 14.000 soldiers.
Next we headed to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme designed by Edward Luytens. The memorial dominates the area and can be seen from afar. It is certainly one of the most important and most impressive memorials of this nomination: a huge arch, actually a complex of arches, with the names of more than 70,000 British soldiers who got no individual grave stone. There is also an information centre.
A few kilometres northwest, The Beaumont Newfoundland Memorial (14a-14e), a kind of park with a number of memorials and small cemeteries, the memorial also includes preserved trenches, less interesting in my opinion.
Lochnagar Crater Memorial (15) - a mine crater turned into a memorial, British special forces dug tunnels under a German fortification and blew it up.
Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Memorial (18a) and Cemetery (18b) - another impressive site designed by Edward Luytens. Two pavilions form the entrance of the cemetery, several rows of graves in the gently rising slope and the memorial on the top of the hill: a tower and surrounding walls with names of thousands of missing dead without individual gravestones. From the top of the tower you have a wonderful view over the grounds and the surrounding countryside. The Départment Somme is characterized by these cemeteries and memorials, it is a rural area with meadows and fields as far as the eye can see, and almost no industrial plants.
It was a sunny September day when we visited the Somme region. We saw only bright colors - blue sky, green grass and white stone - which gave the whole scenery a particular beauty, if that can be said about war cemeteries.
Though we visited only a small part of the serial sites and sub-locations, I think I have got a good idea of the variety and quality of this T-List entry. The most impressive sites were Verdun, Thiepval, Pozières and Villers-Bretonneux, but I would recommend to visit also some of the smaller cemeteries like in Logueval/Deville. I liked best the design and architecture of the British and Commonwealth cemeteries with gravestones of white Portland stone. But the German cemeteries have also a special and different atmosphere.
Of course, the selection can be discussed: how many sites are appropriate to represent a serial nomination? Which sites should be included? The important national memorials and large cemeteries are quite obvious selections, but for many of the smaller cemeteries there would also be alternative choices. I hope this does not raise objections by ICOMOS or the WHC that would lead to a deferral of the inscription. Our visits confirmed my initial assessment: the WWI memorials and cemeteries are a missing site and would be a worthy WHS.
I especially liked that undue nationalism and hero worship were largely avoided, the focus is on the commemoration of the victims of all nations. One of the most moving moments was as I noticed that Christian crosses, a Star of David and an Islamic symbol were next to each other in the same row of graves.
Our failure ever to visit the WWI sites of the Western Front had long been an “annoying” gap in our travel portfolio – especially as I had voted them for the “Top 50 Missing”! So rectifying this was one of the numerous objectives to be achieved whilst we were over for the 2015 WHS “get together”.
An immediate problem facing anyone wanting to see these sites is how to choose from among the many locations listed in the Belgian and French T List entries. Yes - it appears that (unlike the separate nearby Coal Mines inscriptions) this is to be a “transnational” nomination. It is interesting to note that Belgium was first into the field with its T List proposal “Lieux de memoire et monuments de la Grande Guerre: le Westhoek et Regions voisines” from as long ago as 2002. However, in 2014 France decided to get in on the act, and a newly titled combined entry appeared in each country’s T List. We spent a day visiting sites in both countries but I will limit this review to the Belgian side. I may review the French memorials later - for us this has been a year of “war memorials”, having visited Gallipoli also. I am still resolving my thoughts on the whole subject, on the differences in national approach and on the whole subject of their suitability as WHS.
People visiting these sites will have a vast range of reasons to for doing so - we met Australians and Canadians documenting every grave of their countrymen and other visitors who were tracing military events at a daily level. Yet more come to remember a specific family member or regiment. “WWI tourism” is big business at least in the UK. Whilst my wife and I both have distant relatives who died in WWI, our interest was at a more general level and I will assume that any readers of this are going to be of a similar mind and will not want to give more than a few hours to the site. But Belgium has listed 25 different “components” and many of these have “sub locations” creating a list of over 50 different places. (France lists a further 80 – again with many more sub locations and far more spread out geographically going as far east/south as the Swiss border). The vast majority of the Belgian components are in West Flanders and Hainaut (with only a few further east in Namur, Liege and Luxembourg) and, of those, the majority again are British Commonwealth memorials, though there are also 2 German and some Belgian and French ones. If this might have reduced the “Universal” value of the nomination in its original Belgian form the addition of the French sites should overcome any such problem as, in addition to more French and Commonwealth memorials, it also includes e.g Czech, Polish, Portuguese, Somali, US, Danish, Italian and Russian as well. The biggest concentrations on the Belgian side are around Ieper and Ploegsteert and we found that following them provided a natural route down through Armentieres and Lens permitting a quick transfer to possibly the most significant cluster within the French nomination around Vimy – all within a day by car.
We visited the following (references from the UNESCO Web site T List) and, in seeing these, you would pass many others.
12. Menin Gate Ieper. In my opinion, an essential visit. Every evening at 8pm a ceremony takes place in which Last Post is played and often there are representatives taking part with regimental flags. It can get very busy – on a non-descript Wednesday evening in August there must have been towards a couple of thousand people there. It is solely a memorial (with listed names) to around 55000 soldiers of the then “British Empire” of all races and creeds who were killed round Ieper with no grave. The structure does not therefore follow the rather restrained standard design for Commonwealth war graves and was criticised by some at the time for emphasising victory, heroism, sacrifice and pride in a form of Imperial Propaganda with its lions recumbent etc - a “Sepulchre of Crime” (See “On Passing the New Menin Gate” by Siegfried Sassoon )
8. Tyne Cot Cemetery. This would be my choice of a Cemetery to visit if you have no reason to choose any other (Photo). It contains a recently built (2007), and free, visitors’ centre/museum which chronicles both the battles there and the process by which the standard design of the Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves was determined, involving such luminaries as Lutyens (Architect of New Delhi etc), Rudyard Kipling (Nobel Laureate) and Gertrude Jekyll (the doyenne of British garden design in the early 20th C). Decisions included such matters as the reasonably democratic way in which all soldiers of whatever rank and nationality were to be identified and commemorated (e,g standard headstones for all). Since the architectural and social aspects of the memorials are presumably going to figure in the OUV of any nomination this is a useful exhibition and Tyne Cot provides an example of all the important aspects. As well as containing around 12000 graves (including 4 of Germans), it also has a memorial listing the names of a further c35000 “missing” soldiers when the Menin Gate was found to be too small to take them.
7. Canadian “Monument to the Brooding Soldier”. Not far from Tyne Cot and quite a striking memorial at the location of the first “gas attack” of WWI
17. Island of Ireland Peace Park. We visited this simply because we were passing by and, with its Irish Round Tower design, it is quite striking. I was surprised to discover that it is included in the list of sites likely to be included as it was built as recently as 1998. It is solely a memorial rather than a cemetery although the location was chosen as being near to the Battle of Messines Ridge (1917) where Catholic and Protestant Irish soldiers fought side by side on the same side!
25E and F – Hyde Park Cemetery and Berkshire Cemetery Extension”. If you have seen Tyne Cot I wouldn’t go out of my way to see these adjacent sites. The latter contains a 1930 memorial to yet more (another 12000) soldiers whose bodies were never found
A couple of days later we also saw No 24 The Military Cemetery of Saint-Symphorien. This very small mixed German and Commonwealth cemetery (it was originally created by the German Army in 1914), situated close to Mons, has 2 particular interests. First – it is only a couple of kms from the WHS of Spiennes! Second – it contains the graves of both the first and last British soldiers to be killed in WWI
So, is a site of War Memorials and Cemeteries appropriate as a WHS? I personally felt that those described above were pretty non triumphant and even-handed in the treatment of different races and creeds. They also largely avoided nationalistic statements and posturing. Every nation has its traditions in these matters and our visit concentrated on sites designed and built very much in the “British” tradition even if they also commemorated the dead from the Indian subcontinent, West Africa, West Indies and the “white” Dominions etc so perhaps I am biased in finding them “tasteful” and acceptable in these respects. If I look at other T List memorial sites I personally begin to find what I instinctively regard as less “acceptable” aspects – which turn (or at least begin to do so) the sites from a universal human statement of horror and grief into something more overtly nationalistic. From significant “Flag flying” - Gallipoli is dominated by what might be the World’s largest Turkish flag - through to Stalingrad’s Soviet style “Motherland Calls” statue. I don’t dispute the right of those countries to commemorate their dead in those more overtly patriotic ways but do suggest that, in so doing, they could thereby exclude themselves from consideration as WHS. But, if the Belgian and French nominations are accepted, can Gallipoli really be excluded – and then, what about Stalingrad? Can it really be held that the Western Font memorials have achieved “universality” as anti-war statements without also being statements of victory and nationalism and, as a result, are more worthy of inscription than the potentially long list of other, rather more divisive, war memorial sites which could be brought forward? Perhaps the length of time which has passed and the fact that the “losers” are not going to complain helps but it could be a slippery slope!
For anyone interested in this Nomination and the above questions, its UNESCO T List justification is well worth reading. It is far more comprehensive than most, and, unusually, covers 2 aspects at length - the selection of the sites and a comparative analysis. We are told that “La série proposée a fait l’objet d’un long processus de sélection. Chacun des éléments retenus exprime une contribution spécifique et bien identifiée à la valeur exceptionnelle de l’ensemble.”. Also that the selection had been made from among several thousand potential sites using “la Grille des qualités. Un élément constitutif et son ou ses composants devaient satisfaire à un degré d'exceptionnalité pour au moins l'un des critères suivants, et si possible plusieurs”. The trouble is that it must be very difficult to exclude any site where soldiers have died – certainly as far as I could see, every potential site around Ieper and Ploegsteert had been included (as well as around Vimy)! I found the comparison arguments particularly problematic. Among Inscribed and T List sites utilised to demonstrate that defensive lines and “funerary heritage” are both “OK” as WHS and different from this nomination are - the Great Wall of China, The Tomb of Askia and the Taj Mahal!! Waterloo is referred to in passing as a “site de réputation mondiale est l’un des derniers témoins des champs de bataille d’avant le 20ème siècle” - but, so what? Gallipoli gets a mention, but merely to help place the Western Front in a full WWI context with no indication as to whether the nomination should, one day, be expanded to cover other fronts. Stalingrad is notable by the absence of any reference to it at all!
Im a 32 year old belgian, this review starts with a shame on me. Why? Well today i visited the Westhoek for the first time.
It was a beautiful sunny early autumn day so we wanted to visit the theme park Bellewaerde near Ypres. At arrival we saw that it was overcrowded so we decided to explore the region instead. Our tour brought us from one cemetery to the other. all as confronting as breathtaking. the amazing serenity, the perfect maintenance, the purity of every memorial, the multitude of origins of victims made us realize the global size of horror, trauma, tragedy millions of people from all around the world carried and are still carrying today. After visiting the trenches of Hill 61 and the small but very straight to the bone museum next to it, our feet were finally put in the middle of the reality of the Westhoek inhuman cruelty of 1914 till1918. This Iddillic scenery should not lose its historical importance and contrast.
You see here that people write long reviews. I don't think its because we like to write. I think its just because 'we have to' after visiting this most beautiful region with such a short but oh so important black chapter in history.
I love to travel and with great admiration I have visited many World Heritage Sites already in my life. But I live only 1h from the Westhoek, ignorant and naive. A Theme park with some rollercoasters with too long cues should not be the way I learn about the Westhoek. This should be added in respect of 750 000 people who lost their lives, the millions of families left behind and the billions of people not knowing. Before its too late....
I really became aware of this tentative WHS only after the favourable comments made at the 'Top 50 Missing'-topic at the Forum. World War I has largely passed by on the Netherlands and one seldom hears about it here. The first time I really was confronted with what this war meant was when I started studying History at University. There we had to watch the 1916 propagandafilm 'Battle of the Somme' with its graphic portrayal of trench warfare.
So I decided this was a tentative WHS surely to be visited and on a Sunday in June I drove 2,5 hours south to Ieper. The town itself has the usual Flemish charm. What's extra here are the numbers of English tourists and schoolgroups. I started my rounds at the In Flanders Fields-museum. It's a very visual museum with lots of photos, large objects and films. It also draws heavy on the participation of the 'World' in the 'World War'.
The Menin gate is the most important WWI monument in Ieper. It's a British war memorial to the 54.896 missing soldiers. Very impressive to find such a monument in such a small-sized town. I also drove to the British-Canadian Maple Copse cemetery, one of the many that are scattered among the farming fields.
In all, it's an important site to a large part of the world population, almost like a pilgrimage site nowadays. It would be a valuable addition to the List, one even wonders why it takes so long. Maybe it is the lack of physical remains from that period, although there are small parts of trenches left.
I have visited these sites on two separate occasions. The first time was on a school trip that visited many of the battlefields and memorials to the First World War (le Grande Guerre) in this region of Europe, this trip included visits to the sites across the boarder in France especially those connected with the battle of the Somme. I would hope that these monuments would be added to the Belgian entry.
The main memories I have are of the rows and rows of immaculately kept graves representing soldiers lost from all over the world. It is a sobering but magnificent site the sheer number of graves is incredible and the fact that they are still so magnificently looked after is a real credit to all involved. The prominence and importance of the sites are obviously derived from the large amounts of lives lost in the fields of this corner of Europe, however the exceptional plans and landscape design are also of significant note.
10 years after my initial visit I returned to the area to visit the Flemish city of Ieper (Ypres) which was almost totally destroyed in the first world war. There are memorials all around the city the most famous and stirring is the Menin gate where the last post bugle call is played every evening, it is a very sobering and sombre occasion but certainly worth witnessing. The Gate itself is covered with thousands of names of those that died fighting for the city and is a very impressive monument. Ieper it self is a worthwhile place to visit as for the massive rebuilt Cloth Hall (part of the Belfries of Belgium and France WHS) and the impressive fortifications laid out by Vauban. the Cloth Hall now houses an impressive museum dedicated to WWI.
These memorials are an exceptional artistic response to the mass loss of life that occurred during the First World War, from all countries and territories involved and are certainly a worthy site to visit, and hopefully deserving of a place on the World Heritage List.
- GeorgeIng61 KeithBailey Mars51 :
- Ih0000 PabloNorte Ligocsicnarf89 Jezza :
- Digits Ian Cade Argo Thomas van der Walt :
- Jakob Frenzel Christravelblog Alex Goh MH Hubert Daniel C-Hazard :
- Mahuhe Christoph Matejicek Philipp Leu Joyce van Soest Daniel R-F Els Slots CAN SARICA Cezar Grozavu Echwel JobStopar Wojciech Fedoruk :
- Dwight Zehuan Xiao Dibro MoPython Lucio Gorla Clyde :
- David Berlanda Alexander Lehmann Philipp Peterer Nan Zoë Sheng :
- Caspar Dechmann Randi Thomsen :
- George Gdanski Stanislaw Warwas :
2023 Advisory Body overruled
ICOMOS advised Referral, mostly for the selection of sites.
Decision adjourned by WHC for 2 years
Includes and replaces "Le Westhoek, lieu de mémoire et monuments de la Grande Guerre" (on Belgian T List since 2002)
The site has 139 locations
The site has 32 connections
Religion and Belief
World Heritage Process
154 Community Members have visited.