The area around Hooge was the scene of almost constant fighting between 1914 & 1917. Both sides exploded mines beneath the front line trenches here, the evidence of which, as you will see, still exists among the trees to the side of the Menin Road, and it was here, on 30th July 1915, that the Germans first used flamethrowers, liquid fire as it was referred to at the time, against the British positions.
Before the War Hooge Chateau stood near this spot, but by July 1915 artillery had reduced it to rubble and it was never rebuilt. The current building, a hotel and restaurant, was built on the site of the original stables.
In October 1914, during the First Battle of Ypres, the Chateau was being used as the headquarters of the staff of the British 1st & 2nd Divisions as they directed the desperate fighting to prevent the Germans taking Ypres. On 31st October a number of German shells exploded on or around the chateau, two penetrating the rooms where British officers were in conference. Both Divisional Commanders, Major Generals Lomax (1st Division) and Monro (2nd Division) were wounded along with others in attendance; six British officers were killed as a consequence of the shelling including Lomax, who would die of his injuries nearly six months later. On the subjects of generals, if they interest you, try clicking here for a detailed look at these much-maligned men.
Anyway, first a brief resumé of the main actions that took place here, and then on to the photos:
21st February 1915 – The Germans explode the first mine beneath the trenches at Hooge. 19th July 1915 – The British explode one and a half tons of ammonal beneath the German positions and consolidate the huge crater torn in the German lines. 30th July 1915 – Using liquid fire for the first time, the Germans break through the British lines and capture the crater. 9th August 1915 – The British recapture the crater; they will hold it until the summer of 1916. 25th September 1915 – A British attack at Hooge is an expensive failure, costing some 4,000 casualties. 6th June 1916 – The Germans detonate four mines beneath the British trenches at Hooge and retake the crater and the British front line. 31st July 1917 – Hooge and the surrounding area is captured by the British on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). 21st March 1918 – The Germans recapture Hooge and almost take Ypres during their Spring Offensive. 28th September 1918 – Hooge changes hands for the last time as the final British offensive of the War pushes the Germans inexorably eastwards before the Armistice brings hostilities to an end.
There are a number of information boards we will come across that are well worth enlarging – the text should be legible if you do so.
One of a number of German bunkers still in evidence around the crater. This particular bunker dates from the winter of 1915-1916.
Some shots of the interior of the bunker, with and without flash:
This large water-filled crater is actually a combination of the German mines blown in June 1916, and is not the infamous Hooge Crater, long since filled in.
And here’s the proof. It seems to be one of those popular Great War misconceptions that what is in evidence today is the famous Hooge Crater, but it isn’t,…
…as is clear to see on these two aerial photographs from the previous information board. On the left, a single large crater can be seen highlighted in yellow. This is the Hooge Crater, the largest mine explosion of the war at the time, the photo purportedly taken on the day it was blown, 19th July 1915. Fast forward to 6th June 1916 on the right, the Hooge Crater still highlighted in yellow, the four new mine craters blown that day by the Germans now in evidence, along with an ‘X’ marking the spot at which we are standing,…
…and you can now see that it is the remains of the German craters that we see in front of us, not, as so many sources will tell you, the Hooge Crater, which was once beyond the trees to the left and, as mentioned, was filled in long ago.
It seems that we are now standing right on the spot of the German flamethrower attack of 30th July 1915.
At the far end of the crater, another German bunker, this one dating from 1917…
…and what appears to be a part of a third in the foreground.
Caught in the act No 1.
Caught in the act No 2.
The Menin Road, with the battlefields of 1914 & 1917 away in the distance to the east.
No time to visit today, but there is an excellent museum in this restored chapel that I highly recommend you look around should you ever visit Hooge.