WIJTSCHATE

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bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

bois 40

Wijtschate was taken by the Germans on November 1st 1914 and remained in their hands for the next three years, falling again to the British in the Battle of Messines in June 1917. The town occupies a high point on the ridge above Ypres and combined with the high ground of Mesen (Messines) allowed the German forces to dominate the southern part of the Ypres Salient. For the British soldier the Flemish name was turned into 'whitesheet', in common with the usual practice of anglicising difficult names. The ridge was taken back by the Germans in their great offensive of March 1918, but fell again to the British in the Allied offensives of the late summer and autumn.

The small wood known to the British as Bois Quarante (Bois 40) and to the Germans as Bayernwald lies between Wijtschate and Voormezele, down the ridge towards Ypres. This was a German position for most of the First World War. After the war it was preserved as a trench museum and remained so until the 1970s with examples of most types of trench architecture being shown. Some of the bunkers were brought here from other sites. After falling into dilapidation it has recently been restored to a high standard as a museum. The pictures on this page predate this latest restoration and give a better impression of the conditions found by the returning civilian refugees in 1918 with concrete, scrap iron, and shells littering their farmland.

Near the wood is a small British cemetery (Croonaert Chapel Cemetery) which is notable for the unusual memorial to the Chinese Labour Corps who worked as labourers for the British both during and after the War in the great clear-up.

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