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Remembered Today:

Execution Post, Poperinge


kerry

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I visited the cells and execution post and wall at Pop old Town hall.

Local word has it that whilst the soldiers were shot here, neither the execution post encased in a plastic tube, nor the wall behind it, are the real thing, merely representational.

Any views?

The cells are of course for real and are very moving, especially a note left by a schoolgirl on the wooden bed praising those facing the Firing Squad for their courage.

Well worth a visit. Access is 0900-17.30 weekdays.

Kerry

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Most books (E.g. 'Unquiet Graves' by Chielens and Puttkowski ) appear to assume that the post is genuine although probably only used in one execution, that of Chinese labourer Wang Jungzhi, the last man to be executed in 'Pop'. However when I first saw the post, over a decade ago when it was in the town archives rather than on display in the courtyard, the archivist told me quite categorically that he didn't believe it was genuine. I think he said that he thought that it was a bit of an old telegraph pole or similar. I haven't heard anything about the wall. You pays your money...

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I saw this post 15 years ago when it was in the cellar of the town museum; I visited it with Julian Sykes while he was researching the book. We had to carry it out of the museum to photograph it! Then it was in much better condition and still had what appeared to be blood stains on the wood - it was our understanding a soldier of the CLC was executed against it in 1919. But not in central Pop - in a camp outside.

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I saw the post a few weeks back and only had the unquiet graves book to help me..true the cells are very emotive and as far as I know.

Was aware that the post might only have been used for one execution....

John

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This leads to a pholosophical point-does it matter if it's the real execution post or not? It's a bit like George Washington's axe or medieval sacred relics (or come to that the freshly-dug shell holes at Sanctuary Wood).

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Ah, now that is a very good point about the new mock shell holes in Sanctuary Wood, or should it be Disney Dugouts? I do not understand the rationale of the owners' actions- the new 'shell holes' are rather like a man wearing a toupe to cover his baldness - out of place, obvious and fooling no-one.

The original earth of Lovers' Lane comms trenches have all but disappeared

and the representational trenches the Museum presents, are bad enough, but why Disney-fy it by adding fake shell craters?

We should set up a Board of Trustees to stop this shameful adulteration of what should be a hallowed site. The recently dug out trenches behind Hoge Hotel are far more impactive and genuine anyway, and much more worthy of a visit (digital photos to follow).

Folk might ask "Does it matter?" if the owner is adding to the scenery at Sanctuary Wood? If one thinks Disneyfication of the Salient is progress, then probably not. But if the whole thrust is to preserve and and nurture hallowed memories and sites of human sacrifice, then yes it does.

Kerry

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Hello,

all trenches of the Sanctuary Wood Museum are new ones and the owner occasionally digs new holes etc. He knows groups are coming by the bus loads (no matter what he shows) and just wants to make lots of money...

The trenches in Croonaert Wood are reconstructions from the 1970's too... Original trenches (ones that haven't been restored) are impossible to find in Flanders.

Jan

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Preservation of the battlefields is so hard... but to dig trenches to make money as in sanctuary wood, is immoral especially if they are being passed off as something they are not. It is nothing more than a scam and disregards the memory of all those who were there.

To reconstruct them and say that is what they are, an illustration nothing more is at least the truth....

Quite frankly it is depressing to read such information..

John

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paul guthrie

I picked places to take our USA WFA group on our 8 day Salient trip. We went as far afield as Diksmude, Loos , Fromelles, Aubers Ridge and Festubert and saw everything in the Salient, everything but Sanctuary Wood Museum. To hell with it.

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To be fair the authenticity of the 'preserved' trenches at Sanctuary Wood has become a keen talking point (and running gag) on our annual battlefields tours and has led to many stimulating digressions with pupils on the reliability of historical source material. I can credit Heath Foxcroft, a boy who came on several of our early tours, for being the first to come up to me, unprompted, and say 'Sir, I'm sure there are more of these trenches than when we were here last time...' Is the owner of Sanctuary Wood now the richest man in Belgium? There were six coaches the last time we went there. Doesn't stop him increasing his prices every year...

Joking aside, I can appreciate fellow Pals' unease about the money-grabbing aspect of this lucrative operation. I shall be taking my next tour to Yorkshire Trench as a contrast.

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Cliff. Hobson

A bit off topic, but I am reminded of a rather a succinct remark from the War History of the 5th Bn. Sherwood Foresters made by a Private at the time they occupied Sanctuary Wood. The Germans having broken through on their flank, the troops there retreated through the Forester Lines, the said Private on seeing them said they had a "Home to Mother Look on their faces."

Cliff. Hobson.

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The post or part of it.. whatever it may be it looked real from where I was stood...

John

post-4-1053123876.jpg

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As a side-issue, can you view the Hooge Hotel trenches without staying at the hotel?

Yes. there's an "honesty box" on the gate post as you enter the area of the craters,etc. This money goes to the gardener who upkeeps the area (though the trenches are now rather derelict).

Dave.

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here's a photo of the Kasteelhof trenches taken in March ,this year...

post-4-1053213437.jpg

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Guest Hill 60
all trenches of the Sanctuary Wood Museum are new ones and the owner occasionally digs new holes etc. He knows groups are coming by the bus loads (no matter what he shows) and just wants to make lots of money...

The thread about Sanctuary Wood is quite upsetting for me.

My great uncle, Pte Edward Swain, was killed up at the Wood in February 1916 and the thought that some little weasel is making money from faking the area makes me mad.

If you see me up at the Wood later this year it is not because I've fallen for his forgery but because I'll be on a pilgrimage.

Does anyone know the Flemish for "You dirty, cheap, money-grabbing B*****d"?

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He's not that little. I'm not entirely sure why he's felt it necessary to make the trench area bigger in recent years. Presumably to accommodate the increased number of visitors. When I went recently there were some highly dangerous lengths of barbed wire on part of the site, just right for a compensation claim from a school party. Funny how he gets away with things like that, a similar operation in Britain would be closed down by Health and Safety. (Our recent school Founders' Day parade which has safely followed the same route through the town for 100 years was banned by the police the other week because it was raining,slightly). Interestingly I noted that the display at SW has been changed for the first time in 20 years with some new panelling in the first room and the pictures have been moved round. The rusting objects in the second room, of varying vintages, are still the same, however. It would be interesting to know how much money the place actually generates as it is firmly on 'the circuit' for organised trips. Sadly or not it is one of the places all the kids remember-far more vividly than the sound and fury of 'In Flanders Fields' in my experience.

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Sorry, Chris.

When writing my posting - though it added nothing new, just a confirmation of what had been written before by other members - I did realize that this path was getting slippery and might lead to things being said by others that would better not be said publicly on this Forum, for fear of being (too) personal or damaging.

So I have deleted my message.

My apologies.

Aurel

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Yes, and you are not obliged to use the restaurant either. There is an honesty box at the garden-gate entrance about 25 metres to the left off the tarmac turn-off into the hotel grounds from the Menen Road.

The turn-ff is about 50 yards east of the (increasingly commercial and escalatingly priced) Hoge Crater Museum.

Well worth a look - far more authentic and thought-provoking than Sanctuary-Disney.

Kerry

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I have just seen the Adminsitrator's admonition regarding personal comments. It is polite and correct not to become abusive; the warning is apposite.

However, the comments are caused by the behaviour of a business person who, wherever one comes from, may be acting in profit-driven self interest, with different motives than those more honourable ones driving, for example, the Last Post Committee.

Nevertheless, this thread does raise an important issue. There are a number of organisations and agencies that liaise with local Belgian civic, police, municipal and other authorities in and around Wipers. This forum itself is gaining in standing, and, along with the WFA and other sites, produces useful and sound guidance and discussion on WW1.

Surely it is the responsibility of all interested parties ("stakeholders"?) to ensure that the corporate memory of those who gave their lives, should not be exploited to an unacceptable degree (there has unfortunately be an 'acceptable' level of exploitation). But what is happening at SW is crossing the line.

Should we be making others aware and drawing attention to the activities of the operator at SW and asking the local Belgian competent authorities to intercede (HSW and the barbed wire, adding to the trenches and digging false shell holes, unreasonable admission prices etc). Just as there is legislation prohibiting Belgian farmer filling in mine craters, I am sure there is legislation to limit what this man at SW is doing. Should we be telling someone?

Kerry

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Perhaps the province, who is working on an inventory of WW1-relics that should be protected, will come up with some kind of protection of sites and ideas to convert the site back to its more or less original state?

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Kerry

There is no problem in making money, everyone does it lies in the level of acceptance we allow, and also the degree to what is described as being real and faked...

It is a fact of life that there are people who are less scrupulous about making money on the backs of others, perhaps what we are looking for is an admission of what is real and what has been added to and not real.. hence your comment Disney fication....

I agree that if this person is passing off fiction for reality then there should be something done as it becomes a scam and a rip off, if only to protect the memory of those who fought and died there.

The underlying issue though is far darker, that is if you allow this to happen without challenging it then it leaves the way open for anyone to do it in the way they they want and where would we be then?

John

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