No matter what your mode of travel may be, I have found that the
best approach to discovering the Canadian places of interest
is to base yourself in both
(known as Ypres during the war) and
Should you wish to "get right to it" it would be to
your advantage to travel straight through to Ieper (Ypres). It is
less than a two hour drive from the airport. If you have the time,
stop in Ghent. There is a huge underground parking area right at the
centre of the city. Any travel book will be sure to include all the
attractions of Ghent.
Highway travel in
and easy. You can go from the Brussels area to practically anywhere
in the nation in less than 2 or 3 hours. Day trips are easily done
should you decide to stay in one place.
To drive to Ieper from Brussels, just get onto the E40 motorway and
travel west toward Ghent. At Ghent (roughly) turn onto the E17
southbound toward Kortrijk where you pick up the A19. Follow the
signs to Ieper (Ypres). Travelling from Brussels/Leuven, you would
be on the road for about 90 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your
Be sure to read up on the
background of Ieper and the Canadian
efforts during the Great War before arrival. You've got lots of time
on the plane or in the airport to catch up on some good reading. The
more you read and prepare - the more you can make of your time and
understanding of the region.
Ieper was known by the Canadians and British as Ypres (pronounced
Wipers by many of the Veterans) but today we are back to Ieper
(pronounced as it looks). Ieper is the Flemish name - Ypres is the
I have stayed at a number of hotels and B&B's in the
area and each has its own charm .
information, maps and phone numbers are available
in my booklet - mentioned
staying at Ieper do not miss the "In Flanders' Fields" museum housed
in the Cloth Hall. The gift shop at the museum will give you the
opportunity to purchase many books that will enhance your stay in
would also reccommend the Paachendaele Museum located in Zonnebeke.
very serious explorer, I would strongly suggest buying Major & Mrs.
Holt's Battlefield Guide for the Ypres Salient with the
accompanying map of the area. Its detail (although very British in leaning) will make
the experience near perfect. Be sure to also buy For King and
Empire: The Canadians at Ypres 22nd - 26th April 1915, by Norm
Christie. This book can be found in better bookstores in Canada
(Bunker to Bunker Books of Winnipeg) and also in Ypres. The background and history it explains
makes the book worth while.
two block walk from the town square you will find the Menin Gate.
This is spectacular! Every night at 8:00 p.m. under the Menin Gate
all traffic comes to a halt while the last post is played to honour
the the memory and sacrifice of the war's dead. The names of all who
died and whose resting place is unknown are carved into this
memorial. I have had the pleasure of staying often in Ieper and have
always attended the "Last Post". The ceremony
will vary from day to
day and each is moving in its own way.
Ieper (Ypres), postcards dated from 1917 and Belgium as it appears in 1918.
Postcards taken by Ern Thill of Brussels.
The city of Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, as it looks
of the Ieper Region
As you can see from the map, touring the area around
Ieper can be done almost in a
circle. Leaving the city through the Menin Gate, travel along to
Zillebeke following the signs. You will find that thinking in terms
of direction in Belgium could cause confusion. The north-south,
east-west grid system is not in effect and it will not take long to
lose all sense of direction.
click graphic to see full sized
Take note along the way of all the small grave
sites. Many of these were in fact shell holes used to bury the dead
at the time of battle and were groomed after the war. The condition
of all the grave sites - and there are many - is completely
beautiful and respectful. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
people of Belgium deserve high praise for their care of these
cemeteries. You would not be the first Canadian to observe, with a
certain degree of shame, that the condition of our Canadian dead in
Belgium often surpasses the care and respect offered at home.
Off the main road, you will
see the sign for
As the map shows, Hill 62 will be off to the right but the turn is
well marked, complete with our red Maple Leaf indicating the
Stop first at the pub / museum !
great and offers you a chance to walk around a well preserved
portion of the old Canadian trenches and tunnel. Wear boots ! Even a
dry day will show you a sign of the mud and water that our soldiers
lived with daily. A word of warning , however --- There are many who
notice the typically "helpful" atmosphere found elsewhere in
Flanders to be missing at the Hill 62 Museum. After you pay
for your ticket to enter, you are on your own.
I would suggest you read up on the battle for
this will greatly help in your appreciation of the area. Be sure to
check out my
for TheGreatWar.ca and read through the section of
Don't be in too much of a rush for this stop - the
museum is fabulous! Be sure to look at all the pictures in the
stereoscopes. You will also enjoy a slow walk through the Canadian trench
lines. You won't find a more authentic "battlefield".
At the top of the road you will find the Canadian
Memorial. Please sign the visitors book, located in the
"tabernacle-like" door near the gate. You will find these books at
every site and grave yard in the area. In an age of cut-backs it may
become necessary to leave our appreciation at every stop to help
insure continued government support. Bring a pen - the pens often go
missing - in fact, bring extra pens and replace the missing ones for
the sake of others behind you!
Again, after back tracking a short distance move up
the main road to view the Hooge Crater Museum By this point in your
tour you will be glad to have read everything possible about the
Canadian War effort in the region. The more you know- the more you
will appreciate what you are seeing!
Tyne Cot and Passendale (Passchendaele)
Follow a map!
quite easy to get lost but the silver lining to this is that you
spend more time in the Flanders countryside. You
should also take the time to drive into Zonnebeke and experience the
Passchendaele Museum. Within three or four
kilometres of the town of Passendale (note that spellings vary) take
the time to turn into the Tyne Cot Cemetery. It is huge, beautiful
and a must for all taking this pilgrimage.
The battle at
(Passchendaele) will always stand as a memorial to misery, mud and
waste. Here, 16,000 Canadians died taking a sea of mud from the
Germans. Our British commander, Sir Douglas Haig, felt the need to
spend lives like water and remembering this and the men who were
sacrificed should not be overlooked.
From the cemetery you will see church at the centre
of the town of Passendale and the farmland that about ninety years
ago, literally, swallowed up the men. The Canadian monument is
located in the town, over-looking the battlefield. If you are
standing in front of the church, you will see a straight road -
Canadalaan - which leads to the Canadian
Memorial. From the Tyne
Cot Cemetery, you do not need to go back to the main road. Take the
small road fronting the cemetery straight through the battlefield
and it will also take you past the Canadian monument and into the
centre of the town.
Juliaan (Saint Julien)
A five minute drive from Passendale you will find
the Canadian monument (The Brooding Soldier) near
This is one of the most impressive sites of the area. This monument
stands as a remembrance to those that experienced the first gas
attack of the Great War during the
Second Battle of Ypres in April
It was here that the Canadians were first tested
in battle and held the line against the German offensive. There were
no gas masks, just urine soaked rags to protect them against this
new method of killing. It is interesting to note that the design for
this monument was selected as second to the design which would be
the placed at Vimy Ridge. Its beauty and dignity was not be wasted
and it went to St. Juliaan instead. The surrounding parkland and
imposing memorial is a must when touring the region.
From the monument, drive straight on and you will
travel through Langemark. Just outside the town you will find the
German Cemetery on your left. It is well worth the visit as it shows
the differences between the atmosphere and layouts of the opposing
sides. Back-tracking to the "Brooding Soldier", you can make your
turn toward Ypres and Sint Juliaan. On your right, you will find a
well-hidden and barely marked turn that will take you up to the
memorial for the Canadians that attacked the German positions at
Kitchener's Wood during the Battle of 2nd
Ypres. The memorial is quite new and represents one of
the more amazing feats of the Canadian forces during the war.
On your way back to Ieper, be sure to pay your
respects at one of the many cemeteries. As you pass over the canal,
on the outskirts of town turn right and you will see the Essex
Cemetery and the actual battlefield hospital where
wrote "In Flanders' Fields".
of the region please check out TheGreatWar.ca's
is located approximately 90 minutes from Ieper. Personally, I
think it is much better to stay in Arras to visit the Vimy area and
perhaps take the 45 minute drive to view the Newfoundlanders' Battlefield at
Arras is only a 10 minute drive from the Vimy
Memorial. It offers a great setting for your visit and allows you to
be totally unrushed in your visit to the Vimy grounds. There
are two large underground parking
facilities located in Arras.
My booklet lists a
number of Hotels and the best parking facilities in the town.
Driving from Ypres, take the A19
and south toward France. The
A22. Just past the city of Lille. Take the
on to the
E15 and follow the signs for
You will pass through a French motorway toll so be prepared. Take a
ticket and pay when you leave the motorway
Should you wish to take a route that is "more as the
crow flies", you won't regret it - just remember to take a great
map, some patience and a navigator. This route will take you along
the old trench line from the war. For this route, follow the signs
out of the "Lille Gate" of Ieper for Armentiers and on passed Lille
and Lens - try to avoid Lille.
Depending on the route taken, just past Lens you
will see the Vimy Memorial high on the ridge overlooking the Douai
Plain. Stop and enjoy the site!
Should you arrive in Arras by train, it should be
realized that there is no direct public transportation from Arras to
the Vimy Memorial site. The memorial is located less than 10 km from
the train station. The simplest way is to take a taxi or rent a car.
There are car rental agencies just outside of the station.
There is a local train that
runs from Arras to Vimy Village but it is not very convenient as the
station is still 5 km away from the site.
The TGV rail from Paris to Arras is 55 minutes and makes a
number of trips per day.
Most visitors will travel from Paris' Charles DeGaulle
Airport. This is easily done and you can visit the many
sites at the Somme battlefield & Beaumont hamel along the
way. Exact directions and stops of interest are in my
The Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge is the largest
and most impressive monument of the First War. The grounds are
spectacular. There is the addition of a small museum
/ information building (called the Historical Interpretive Centre).
Here you may talk to guides and enjoy a very good slide presentation
of the history of the ridge.
If you visit during the "off-season" be prepared to
be told that due to spring water conditions, the tunnels may not be
Groups of less than 10 can not book in advance and are asked
to go to the Visitor Centre upon their arrival to
sign up for the next available tour.
Calling ahead might not help inform you of the conditions as
they change hourly.
If you still wish to call the Memorial site for
contact the centre
(03.21.50.68.68 - from Canada 011-33-3-21-50-68-68)
There is no charge for this service and it is truly
wonderful. The guides will escort you through the tunnel system and
give you a day that will rank as the high point of your vacation.
The battle scarred terrain from the shelling and warning signs
keeping visitors from still dangerous areas bring the war and the
sacrifice to life.
Take your time to walk around the memorial - it is
well worth it. Two Canadian cemeteries are located within the
boundaries of the memorial grounds. The view from the top of the
ridge explains why this was a key position in the war and necessary
to hold and a disaster for the German forces to
On a clear
day, you can see the entire Douai plain...
and so could the Canadian
Merci Beaucoup, Jean-Marc LeLong
(Bois-Bernard, France) for this photos, taken
February 2, 2007.
and this photo taken April 7, 2007 during
the musical performance - a part of the 90th Anniversary ceremony.
Many Thanks to Jim Brown for passing
along this picture of the Vimy Memorial - taken on November 12, 2006 during the restoration work.
These pictures were taken during my visit
to Vimy in October & November of 2005.
... and this picture provided by Mr. Tony
Greco of the memorial & its scaffolding
as of July 13, 2005
Canada's Vimy Memorial, 2013
Planning a Trip?
I receive many emails from those wishing to
visit the Canadian Great War sites of Flanders and
Vimy requesting information on directions, places to stay, timing
Since my last visit to region, I have written a
29 page booklet outlining suggested answers to these questions plus
added information that may assist in making your visit more
economical & time efficient.
Please click here for
more information on how to obtain this booklet
& its contents.
For pictures of the region
please check out
TheGreatWar.ca 's Photo Gallery
This design was chosen from 160 submissions.
Sculpted by Walter S. Allward of Toronto.
In 1922 the government of France gave the 91.18 hectares or 250
acres of land to Canada in perpetuity
it was Brigadier Henry Hughes, Royal Canadian Engineers, who was
personally assigned the mission to obtain lands for both Vimy
and the Flanders
The base used 11,000 tonnes of concrete.
The 2 pylons and figures took another 5,500 tonnes of stone.
Stones were taken from a quarry near Split, Croatia because this
was the site where stones were taken to build a third century
Roman Palace that had proven to withstand the “test of time”.
(Also acquired through the work of Brigadier Henry
Hughes, Royal Canadian Engineers)
Actual sculpting took place in France.
It took 11 years to complete at a cost of $1.5 Million.
The base measures just under 75 metres across.
The 2 pylons (representing both Canada and France are each 45
The figures of the Memorial stand for peace, justice, truth,
knowledge and sacrifice while the largest is carved from a 30
tonne block representing a “brooding Canada” watching over the
graves of her dead.
On the base are carved the 11,285 names of those Canadians
listed as missing and presumed dead in France during the war.
The Memorial was dedicated on July 26, 1936 by King Edward VIII.
From Canada and the Battle of Vimy Ridge 9-12
by Brereton Greenhous & Stephen J. Harris
page 2 Photo
Gallery, Links and Poetry
Leo Kelly's Letter from Vimy Ridge
4 Photographs, comments and suggestions from
friends of this site
back to TheGreatWar.ca
site managed & written by John Stephens
possible, please consider supporting the
for a Vimy"
The Vimy Foundation is asking
Canadians to help us realize our fundraising goal of $5
million to help build a new state of the art Education
Centre in France. The Centre will be unveiled on April
9, 2017, to commemorate the centennial of this important
First World War Canadian victory.
In exchange for your
donation, you will receive a Vimy Pin and your name will
be added to the list of Vimy 2017 supporters. Donations
of $20 and higher will receive a donation receipt for
income tax purposes.
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