Mont Kemmel Part Seventeen – Loker Demarcation Stone No. 1

Way back in the first post of this tour, I mentioned that we would encounter four Demarcation Stones on our travels, and here’s number two. 

Placed alongside the Dranoutre-Loker road a few hundred yards south of the latter, and five hundred yards north of our previous stop at Locre No.10 Cemetery, this one has been given a nice new base on which to stand in the not-so-distant past.  Very briefly, these stones were erected in the 1920s to either mark the extent of the German offensive that finally petered out in the summer of 1918, or the point of departure from which the Allies launched their final, ultimately successful, onslaught against the Germans, depending on which book you read.  In the background, to the north west, Mont Rouge,…

…Mont Vidaigne, and the line of low hills that, should they be taken by the Germans, would surely make the British positions around Ypres untenable, forcing them to abandon the city and retreat north and north west towards the Channel coast, in so doing splitting them from the French Army to the south.

And this is why.  This map shows Ypres, centre top, and the line of green hills that begin to the north east of the city (off the map top right) and curve round to the south towards Loker and the hills we have just seen beyond the Demarcation Stone, which is marked as a red dot within the blue square, bottom left (click to enlarge).

Clearly there was only so far that the Germans could advance west before Ypres (the mauve dot) would have to be evacuated, or potentially face being surrounded.  And although the text on this map actually refers to the British advance in August 1918 (and later), I think it proves the point well enough.

British observation balloon pictured near Loker in 1916,…

…and looking down on the Dranouter-Loker road from a similar British balloon, also in 1916, the area still far enough behind the lines to show few signs of warfare, the trees still standing and apparently unharmed.  The red dot shows the position of the Demarcation Stone, Loker village is where the roads meet in the background, and Mont Kemmel is a mile and a half away to the east (right),…

…as seen in this shot taken from behind the stone,…

…and visible somewhat better here, with the stone now behind us.  If we were a crow, and if we were to fly, like a crow, straight past the southern (right) slopes of Mont Kemmel, in less than four miles…

…we would find ourselves here, the Kemmelberg now two miles behind us, as we now look west from Lone Tree Cemetery on the Messines Ridge towards the battlefields of 1918.  The German front line trenches for the first three years of the war, as shown on the map, were just a few yards behind us, this the view they would have had from their positions overlooking the whole of the British rear area for miles around, the strategic importance of the Kemmelberg within the surrounding landscape clear to see.

Still on observation balloons, if you’ve ever wondered how some of the amazing aerial shots you see were taken during the war, here’s a German photographer-balloonist with a lens worth boasting about; these things could pick out amazing detail way beyond the British front lines, hence the efforts made by the R.F.C. and later the R.A.F. to shoot down the balloons.

And here’s another aerial shot, whether from balloon or plane I know not, to which I have added a yellow bit, and a green bit,…

…and a September 1918 map, after the German retreat, Mont Vidaigne centre left, Mont Rouge on the right, with the same yellow and green bits marked.  Note British defensive trenches on both map and, look closely, in the foreground of the photo.

A couple of months earlier, and this map shows the front lines in the summer of 1918, British trenches in red, German in blue, Mont Rouge up in the top left corner.  The highlighted area of No Man’s Land in the centre of the map can be seen in close-up below,…

…with the Demarcation Stone once again marked as a red dot on both*.  The front line trenches on the map can be clearly traced on the aerial photo.  Note how the ‘V’-shaped German front line trench becomes, after a small gap, a British trench, probable evidence that this whole trench was once British, now ‘turned’ by the Germans.

*and clearly pretty close to the correct place, because although the Germans would take Loker during the fighting – more than once – in the last week of April 1918, as we shall see later in the tour, they would fail to hold it each time, and thus their front line was established south of the village once the Battle of the Lys was called off, as we see here.

Now there’s a minor problem with this Demarcation Stone, because although commonly referred to as Loker No. 1 (I’m not so sure that Demarcation Stones are commonly referred to as anything by anyone, but you get the idea), being so close to the village,…

…it quite clearly says ‘Kemmel’ beneath the French helmet.

As we still have two more of these Demarcation Stones to see on this tour,…

…we’ll return to this matter later, although it really makes no difference what it’s called, as long as it’s in (roughly) the correct place, as this one indeed is.

Looking south, back towards Dranouter, Locre No.10 Cemetery five hundred yards down the road.

Newcomers can find more details about these Demarcation Stones here, but there will be a full explanation at the end of this tour, and we need to move on,…

…as we continue up the road towards Loker.

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6 Responses to Mont Kemmel Part Seventeen – Loker Demarcation Stone No. 1

  1. alan says:

    another interesting post thank you

  2. Lou Lloyd says:

    On our last cycle tour of Ypres we decided to visit every Demarcation stone, from memory, around 30? They hold a vital key to the history of the area and I love finding them. Thank you for the photos which brought back beautiful memories.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Lou! Were I a cyclist – huge pro-cycling fan, was in Canterbury when the TDF visited these shores, but I have never even owned a bike in my life – I would do something similar. Nineteen in Belgium (originally 22) and 100 plus still in France. The last post of this tour will feature two more and then I think I have only the ones in Nieuwpoort to find and photograph to cover all the Belgian ones.

  3. nicholas Kilner says:

    always interesting to see these demarkation stones, and another very enjoyable post. One day you’ll have to put them all on a single map for us, you know, when you get five minutes lol

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