Zonnebeke War Memorial

Zonnebeke war memorial, next to the church, right in the centre of town.

Beyond the memorial, this photograph shows the tented entrance to the amazing dugout that I showed you around a couple of years back (and is no longer, in case you are grabbing your coat, accessible).

Second World War casualties, three military at the top, eight civilian beneath.

The Great War dead, twenty three named here, are listed on either end panel.

Murdered civilians.  With a curious gap between the fourth and fifth name.  I am convinced that there was once a sixth name there, but under what circumstances would it have been removed?  All a bit peculiar.

The remaining twenty five Great War casualties are to be found on this end panel.

Zonnebeke is best known today, I suppose, for being the location of the Passchendaele museum, or the Memorial Museum Passchendaele, as it is officially known,…

…the entrance to which, just a hundred yards up the road from the war memorial, is flanked by the remains of a German bunker, or maybe bunkers,…

…perhaps the result of a failed attempt by a local farmer to clear his land, necessitating Plan B.

Donate them to the museum, you collect (clever, that).

Many moons ago now, as pictured over the next few shots, Baldrick and I spent a very pleasant afternoon here, just before it was restored and refurbished.

I hadn’t been back since, and you have to admit that the building was looking a little shabby at that time,…

…although the grounds included at least one item of interest,…

…this piece of shrapnel-spattered debris,…

…actually being a piece of old elephant iron, or, to be more precise, a piece of Large English Elephant.

The surrounding land still showed the undulations left by four years of warfare long ago, these shots taken standing very close to, certainly within a very few yards of, and possibly actually on, the British front line on 3rd October 1917, as the New Zealanders prepared for their attack the following day (see Dochy Farm post).

Fast-forward a number of years.  Renovation completed for the Great War centenary, today the pitted ground has gone, replaced by serene lawns, and another little piece of Great War topography has gone for ever.  Whoever made the decision should be ashamed of themselves.

Wall plaques,…

…this one commemorating the area’s liberation in 1944 by Polish troops of Montgomery’s army led by General Stanisław Maczek.  From general to Edinburgh bartender to recipient of an official Polish governmental apology, Maczek, who eventually died in Scotland in 1994 at the age of 102 and is buried, at his request, in the Polish military cemetery at Breda in the Netherlands, has a story worth telling.  But not by me.

Although not wishing to spend this particular afternoon in the museum, I did nip into the foyer where this French Roll of Honour caught my eye; it names only sergeants, but in what context I don’t know.  Anyone?

Zonnebeke 1918.  The approximate site of the war memorial is marked in green, and the red half-elipse shows the rough location of the once-cratered, now-manicured, area of the museum grounds we have just seen.  The shattered lake just above, and its island, are still there to this day, as a look on Google Maps, or whatever, will reveal.

This entry was posted in Belgian War Memorials, Bunkers, Museums, Zonnebeke. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Zonnebeke War Memorial

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    There is so little trace of the war left on the Salient. But they did plant memorial gardens on a trail walk! We visited the old chateau before renovation. Inside is much improved though. The coloured gas canisters brought reality home as all we see today are rust remnants
    A thoughtful post as always

  2. Steven Hearnden says:

    Zonnebeke is a ‘must’ visit for anyone with an interest in the great war.

  3. Nick Kilner says:

    Pretty disgraceful, or perhaps just incredibly thoughtless that they decided a nice flat lawn was better than an original trench line. ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’ springs to mind. Another irreversible decision and another loss to history.
    Regarding the gap in the names and as I’ve probably mentioned before, Thame war memorial has chap listed on it who died in the 1950’s. He’s most likely listed because he didn’t return to his home town of Thame on being demobbed, and so it was assumed that he’d been KIA. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something similar has happened here, and when they realised he wasn’t dead they removed his name.
    Another great post, and the links to previous posts which I hadn’t read were equally as interesting!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Yes, but the missing name is civilian, not military. What’s that all about? The reverse of the memorial says ‘Names of murdered civilians of Zonnebeke’, and must be Great War names as the WWII ones are on the smalll plaque. So how come a name later gets removed?
      Glad you enjoyed the linked posts – you reminded me to put in a link from the dugout post back to this one. That dugout – I went over especially. It was not to be missed.

      • Nick Kilner says:

        Only thing I can think is that perhaps the person in question was taken away, rather than executed, and was presumed killed. Returning years later.
        It’s thinner than my grandmother’s gravy, but not entirely inconceivable.
        I suppose one other option is that there was a mix up or duplication and they’re now on the military list, or perhaps listed on another memorial (though you’d think they’d keep both if that was the case really)
        It’s certainly an odd one.

        • Magicfingers says:

          Yeah, I thought about that. But the memorial must have been built some time after the war – the photo of Zonnebeke in 1918 shows why – so even if someone was taken away, and that would have been for labour, surely, as the Germans seemed to have no qualms executing people wherever was conveniant (why take them anywhere), they would surely have long returned by that time and their name would not be on the memorial in the first place, and if they’d died at some point, they’d still be on it.
          I wonder about some Second World War shenanigans ending in a name removal, but that’s thinner than the dish water-type liquid in which sat the severed jaw of a pig, upside down, inch-long whiskers still attached, inch thick layer of fat gleaming grey, that I was once served as a delicacy on an Austrian farm……….

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