A short post, this one. A mile east of Pervijze, but still a few hundred yards west of the Yser, Stuivekenskerke is not much more than a hamlet, but it does have a big church, and those with a keen eye (that’ll be Baldrick & me) might just spot two plaques on the wall on either side of the entrance.
The plaques remember the men who left here on the morning of 22nd October 1914 to try to stem the German advance at Tervaete, and who failed to return.
That day the Germans unleashed a hurricane of artillery fire on the Belgian positions between the canal bridge at Tervaete, a short distance east of Stuivekenskerke, and Schoorbakke, the next canal crossing a little further north. German infantry began to cross the Yser, and an initial Belgian counterattack was repulsed, before the defenders somehow managed to push the Germans back, quite literally, into the canal. Battle continued throughout the day, and during the night, with the help of reinforcements, the Germans succeeded in taking Tervaete. The inundations were still days away, the land was yet to be flooded, and more and more German troops were swarming across the canal, slowly pushing the Belgians west towards the railway embankment between Ramscappelle and Pervijze. By now, however, the Germans themselves were being subjected to withering fire from British and French warships, whose shells could reach this far, off the Belgian coast, and from French heavy artillery now in action from the west, and their advance faltered. German attention turned south once again to Dixmuide, scene of almost constant German attacks throughout the Yser battle. On the night of the 23rd October no less than fourteen German assaults on the town were beaten off, but that is all for a later post.
The plaque on the left of the entrance, inscribed in both Flemish & French, translates as:
“In October 1914 in these Yser plains the 8th Line Regiment sacrificed its best brothers-in-arms in defence of King and Country.”
The place names on either side of the coat-of-arms tell us that these men came from a number of different regions throughout Belgium.
That on the right, again in both languages, translates as:
“22-10-1914. From here the carabiniers left for the heroic counter attack at Tervaete. Approximately 1200 would remain on the battlefield”.
On the night of 22nd October, fearing that the Germans would occupy Stuivekenskerke, which indeed they soon would, Belgian engineers fire the church to prevent its use as an observation post; as elsewhere in this sector, the church you now see has been completely rebuilt since the war.
Although the inundations ensured that the front lines changed little in this sector for the next four years, the Germans did manage to hold some pockets of dry, or at least less wet, land west of the Yser (to the right hand side of the trench map above*). These included Stuivekenskerke, which they ringed with barbed wire, as you can also see on the map (German positions are in blue, Belgian in red), and held for the rest of the war. The map shows clearly the close proximity of outposts held by both sides within the flooded areas. The main Belgian defences at Pervijze, behind the railway embankment, are clearly visible to the far left.
Our next stop, as we continue south, is a Belgian outpost within the inundations where a number of memorials tell yet more tales of the terrible fighting that took place here in those critical days of October 1914.
*A few years back now, a gentleman named Dave O’Mara kindly allowed me to use his trench maps on this site. Hopefully his generosity still holds, as this map is another from his collection.