Aloïs De Beule’s depiction of a dead Belgian soldier, the centrepiece of the Ieper (Ypres) War Victims Monument.
Next time you visit Ieper, if you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity, wander down the Grote Markt to the western end of the Cloth Hall and you’ll find the monument easily enough, marked as a green rectangle on the above map (no, it is not, although it may appear to be, the In Flanders Fields Museum), and where the green building is marked in the old photograph below.
The monument was designed by Jules Homère Martin Coomans, the official Ypres town architect who, in the early years of the 20th Century, headed a programme of restoration of some of the town’s ancient buildings, hence the scaffolding,…
…which was still ongoing when war came in 1914, this photo probably from early 1915.
Coomans could never have imagined that his pre-war project would prove to be mere tinkering compared to the scale of the restoration work he would be responsible for after the war, which also included the design of the Victims Monument, which the Ghent sculptor Aloïs De Beule then created between 1924 & 1926. Originally intended to be placed beneath a covered colonnade walkway in the eastern wing of the Cloth Hall, where Coomans suggested other memorials could also be placed, financial restrictions meant that the memorial was completed long before the eastern wing could be reconstructed, and it was decided to place the memorial where it now stands, the houses previously marked in green on the first black & white photo, destroyed during the war, not having been rebuilt afterwards.
None of which explains the title of this post – ‘The Ieper Fury’. Now, you might think that the day of the monument’s unveiling on Sunday 27th June 1926 was a day of peace and remembrance. Not a bit of it. It was a day remembered primarily for its violence.
The Flemish Veterans Association (FVA), more than unhappy at being placed at the rear of the procession that would march to the site of the monument, were equally incensed that the Flemish national flag was not included among the official flags hanging from the town hall. And so, before the march had even begun, rioting broke out, police on horseback charged the FVA members, and a number of people were injured before order was restored, only for fighting to break out again when the FVA laid a wreath at the unveiled monument, the police once more rushing the crowd, this time with swords drawn, and again there were casualties, and a number of arrests. The Flemish press, reporting on the day’s events, coined the term ‘The Ieper Fury’ to describe the mayhem.
Note the figurine of a Belgian soldier, far left of the above shot. The post-war restoration work may have, in general, been aimed at reproducing the pre-war splendours of the city, but he most certainly wasn’t there beforehand.
The monument faces the Cloth Hall, on the corner of what is now Coomansstraat, the street renamed in 1938 after Coomans, who had died the previous year,…
…and today remembers the city’s dead from two World Wars.
On either side of De Beule’s impressive sculpture,…
…which depicts ‘Victory’ placing a laurel wreath on the head of the dead soldier,…
…two large panels contain the names of the Great War dead, seventy eight names to be found on this left panel,…
…and seventy seven on the right panel. Are these all military casualties, or are there civilian dead named here too? I can find opinions on this, but not actual facts. What I can say is that all but one of the 155 names are male, and the single woman appears as the very last name on the above panel; Sister Juliana, real name Euphrasia Vanneste, was a fifty one year old nurse who worked at the Elizabeth hospital in Poperinghe, and was killed by a German shell on 14th July 1917. She is buried in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery. Incidentally, if you go back a few photos you will spot a plaque on the wall to the right of the monument. Sorry there’s no close up. This plaque was unveiled in 2010 and remembers the civilian victims of two World Wars, which suggests, surely, that the names on the two main panels of the monument are all military casualties.
Beneath each Great War panel the names of Second World War casualties, nine on the left (above) and twelve on the right (below), are listed on two smaller panels, both listing the dates of the occupation, 1940-1945.
He’s a mighty fine lion. I can’t help thinking how much better he looks…
…than the disproportioned lion on British Great War Memorial Plaques, or Death Pennies, if you (and I do) prefer. This is a new acquisition of mine, actually, and in mighty fine condition too. He’s easy to find on the CWGC database, there being only one Great War Coventon listed.
The majority of visitors to St. George’s Memorial Church, two hundred yards down the road, will pass by this monument on their way, but I wonder how many stop for a moment before moving on. If that applies to you, or even if you’re just heading off for a beer and some well-deserved frites after a day on the battlefields, pause next time you pass by, and give these men, and Sister Juliana, a minute of your time.
For newer readers, the Ypres (Ieper) category on the right contains all sorts of other Great War sites in and around the city for your reading and viewing pleasure.
I wonder if there was any deliberate German policy not to disturb the overwhelmingly Western Allied War Memorials when the Germans occupied Belgium and France. If I’ve read on it before, I can’t remember it this morning.
I can’t remember much most mornings….no no no, I jest. Bearing in mind Hitler’s orders to raise Paris to the ground in ’44, I doubt there was any policy, I suspect it depended on which soldiers were in a particular area at the time, and how drunk they were. I’ve certainly seen photos of Germans trashing memorials, but it does seem more renegade than planned. If at any time you remember the facts I shall be all ears.
I do seem to recall reading that Hitler gave orders that WW1 cemeteries were to be respected, and that soldiers were to avoid damaging them. However, it would seem an impractical situation, as I suspect the Allied forces would have used that to their advantage by setting up in and around WW1 cemeteries. It’s possible that the order was given in the hope that by return, the German cemeteries in France and Belgium would not be destroyed. He must have fought alongside men buried in several of them during WW1.
Indeed. I am awaiting a response from John filling us in with all the details. And I would anticipate a reply from him sometime around Christmas……he’s such a tease.
I do remember leaving this subject as a query. The question came from my memory of WW2 bullet damage to a Hill 60 Ypres Regimental Memorial. Though from my current position in the Canadian version of a raucus pub I would not have either memory put on paper and sworn before a Commissioner : )
There’s certainly bullet damage on the Indian memorial near Neuve-Chapelle dating from WW2. Headstone of course are replaced when damaged or worn, so memorials are the only place where this type of damage is likely to be visible now.
Enjoy the beer 😉
Thank you Nick I shall. Thanking G*d the beer is not American, and wishing sincerely it twere of UK, or Belgian origin. The former I have had insitu, the later I can only dream of by reputation. And as to our host’s characterizatio of moi as “teasing”, I have only two defenses. One the single father of four girls, I am oft engaged in controversies. And, second, my best friend who’s family runs a Printing concern… can get you biz cards in 24 hours…. can’t get a marked “Secret” map of Xanten scanned in now six #$%*# months…
Hahaha, love it!
I’m a big fan of Belgian beer myself (as well as English beer it must be said). The triple hopped variety in particular is extremely pleasant, and absolutely bloody lethal!
So M that’s what you were doing loitering on the opposite corner at the armistice and had you not of mentioned it then although I have been in ypres on a no of occasions I would not have noticed it again. Did stop and look at it and admire the work so thankyou for that and this information interesting as always
Ha ha! This is most certainly what I was doing. I am an expert loiterer. And glad to hear you have already had a proper look, M, and let’s hope others do too.
I have visited Ieper four times from Australia, my Grandfather being buried in Ploegsteert Wood. Each visit we pause at the Memorial among other sites. Ieper is a beautiful town and close to our hearts. Were the Germans in Ieper during WW2 as there was no damage to my knowledge? Thank you for another great post.
Cheers Roland. Good to hear you are aware and pay your respects at the monument already. The Germans most certainly were in Ieper during the Second World War, and there most certainly was damage, for example:
Thanks for commenting.
Superb, as ever. And next time I visit the town I shall indeed give a minute of my time, as we all should. Speaking of lions, did I show you the LaHerliere lion I wonder?
Oh God, is that like your Tuckingmill crocodile?
Not quite as large as the Tuckingmill Crocodile, but just as interesting I’m sure you’ll agree 🙂
Frankly, considerably more interesting to my mind. No offence to the crocodile, of course.
Cover your ears Mr Bickford, I’m sure he didn’t mean it really lol. Actually I suspect the phrase ‘cover your ears Mr Bickford’ was in very common use at one time! Hahaha
I agree actually 😉
You may recall I mentioned the VC war grave in my local church?
I now have the photos and was wondering how to post/upload them for you?
Steven, can I mail you and then you can send me the pics – you can’t directly upload them yourself – that way lies chaos! Lol!
Oh, very good Nick. No one has a clue what we are on about, but that is very good. Lol!