100 years on: Key events commemorating the Battle of Passchendaele

Monday February 27, 2017

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The Battle of Passchendaele, known for its representation of the mud and slaughter of World War I, is a key conflict in the war’s history, being instrumental in the British army’s break into Flanders. A criticised war effort, the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was led by Sir Douglas Haig, and aimed at reaching the Belgium coast to destroy German submarine pens. Unpredicted heavy rainfall caused substantial flooding and mud, which made the battle increasingly difficult for troops. The battle continued from July to November 1917, causing 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties, to obtain a mere 5 miles of land.

This year marks 100 years since the iconic conflict, and events are taking place in Ypres that we would recommend exploring. The surrounding events and activities around this time offer a captivating insight into the battle, and showcase the true effects of war to students.

Commemorating the Centenary of Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres

What made the Battle of Passchendaele stand out from the first and second battles of Ypres, was the arsenal used by the Germans. For the first time on 12th July 1917, German troops used mustard gas on British troops, causing serious chemical burns. This delayed the follow-up defensive, and the Third Battle of Ypres began weeks later on the 31st July 1917.  There are several commemorations taking place during the weekend of the centenary, to acknowledge the beginning of the battle and pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

Sunday 30th July 2017

8.00pm - The Last Post Ceremony, Ieper

Taking place at the Menin Gate Memorial, the Last Post Ceremony is a fitting tribute to the courageous soldiers who sacrificed their lives. Local people and visitors gather every day to commemorate the troops, with music from a band or orchestra, the sounding of the Last Post bugle call, and a minute’s silence.

Sundown - The Story of the War

Cloth Hall in Ypres will be home to live performances and multi-media projections, highlighting the story of the war in Ypres Salient, 1914 – 1918. This will be a unique experience that gives students the chance to see the effects of the war for their own eyes, in a different yet equally moving memorial ceremony.

Monday 31st July 2017

Noon – Tyne Cot Cemetery service

We would recommend school groups pay their respects and commemorate the centenary by visiting Tyne Cot Cemetery, for a special ceremony. This will be dedicated to remembering the Third Battle of Ypres, situated at the poignant, thought-provoking location of Tyne Cot.

Afternoon – Memorial Museum, Passchendaele

A ceremony will also be taking place in the chateau and the chateau grounds of the Memorial Museum, Zonnebeke. 

Tag for Remembrance Project

1ST June 2017 – 10th November 2017

At WST, we think it’s important for students to discover the consequences of war through remembrance. The solemn environment allows pupils to think of the faces of battle, and consider war not as an event, but as a real-life catastrophe that affected both citizens and soldiers. From 1st July – 10th November, school groups can leave a personal message at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, the Visitors’ Centre, at Tyne Cot Cemetery. This is an opportunity to pay a heartfelt tribute to those who lost their lives, and offer respect. Selected messages will also be chosen as part of special Paaschendaele Memorial Park artwork, and engraved onto identity tags. 

Passchendaele, Landscape at War Exhibition

3rd June 2017 – 15th November 2017

As war records highlight the devastating effect of the battle of Passchendaele, this exhibition, hosted at the dominant Villa Zonnedaele mansion, discusses the role in which the terrain, weather and ground played in the conflict, and its outcome. As unexpected rain fell – double the average for the month of October, the landscape was transformed into a quagmire, forcing soldiers to change their much-learnt tactics. While the physical landscape altered, soldiers found that even carrying artillery was exceptionally challenging, and it added an exertion to the battle that wasn’t predicted. The temporary exhibition – Passchendaele, Landscape at War, brings to light the problems faced by troops, and provides an alternative, yet equally interesting angle of the battle for students to explore. 

The Long Road to Passchendaele – themed weekend

19th and 20th August 2017

Taking place in Zonnebeke, this themed weekend offers a wealth of diversity, with an array of activities that focus on the Scottish efforts during the Battle of Passchendaele. It begins with a memorial service in Frezenburg, where students can pay tribute to the Scottish troops who were involved in the war, then moves to the chateaux grounds. Performances by pipe bands offer a festival of sweet Scottish sounds, while school groups can participate in other Scottish activities over the weekend, from tasting popular Scottish delicacies to watching mesmerising demonstrations. 

At WST, we arrange captivating school trips to Ypres and Somme, where students can explore several iconic battlefields, pay tribute to those who lost their lives through conflict, and learn more about the events that have shaped 20th century history. If you would like to find out more about how a school trip can inspire students to think differently about World War I, contact a member of our friendly travel team who’ll be happy to help.