May 9, 2012

World War 1 Ieper (ypres), Belgium

Belgium was an important chapter in the World War I. After the sudden occurence of World War I (Aug., 1914), Belgium was invaded by Germany in order to attack the French by the easiest route, this unashamed violation of Belgian neutrality shocked much parts of the world and brought Great Britain into the war, as one of Belgium's guarantors. The unexpected resistance of the Belgians against such heavy odds won widespread admiration, and German atrocities in Belgium, publicized by the Allies, played an important part in strenghtening U.S. opinion against Germany. All of Belgium except a small strip in West Flanders, which served as a battle front throughout the war (Ieper or Ypres), was conquered by Oct. 10, 1914, and the people suffered under a harsh occupation system. The Belgian army fought in West Flanders and France throughout the war under the leadership of Albert I.

Ypres or Ieper, a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. During World War I, Ieper was the centre of serious and sustained battles between the German and the Allied forces. During the war, English soldiers nicknamed the city "Wipers."

The Allied forces captured Ieper from the Germans in the First Battle of Ypres (31 October to 22 November 1914). In the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April to 25 May 1915) the German force used poison gas for the first time on the Western Front and seized high ground east of Ieper. The first gas attack occurred against British, Canadian and French soldiers, including both metropolitan French soldiers as well as Senegalese and Algerian tirailleurs (light infantry) from French Africa. Of the battles in the World War I, the largest, most-known, and most costly in human suffering was the Third Battle of Ypres (21 July to 6 November 1917, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele) in which the British, Canadians, ANZAC and French forces recaptured the Passchendaele ridge east of the city at a terrible cost of lives. After several months of fighting, the battle resulted in nearly half a million casualties to all sides, and only several miles of ground won by Allied forces. Ieper was all but destroyed by the artillery fire.

Many landmarks and memorials of the World War I and museums are worth visiting in Ieper.

1. Menin Gate Memorial - Memorial dedicated on 24 July 1927 to the missing British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in Belgium during World War I. It has a Last Post Ceremony each night at 8:00 PM as a way for the Ypres citizens to express their gratitude towards those who died for Belgium's freedom.

2. Flanders Fields Museum - It is located right in the center of the Ypres Cloth Hall. This museum gives an excellent overview of World War I. It is a sort of an experience that takes you right into the daily life during the war.

3. Memorial Museum Passchendaele - A Museum in a beautiful setting, conveying the story of the Great War in chronological order. It has lots of information on the different battles and a large selection of authentic artifacts on display

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