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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Another one gone


mebu

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I have not been to the Ypres salient area for a while, but every time I do go I found that some vestige has disappeared. While searching for something else recently on Google earth I found that one of my "favourite" German bunkers has been demolished, in the last decade or so. Most likely a local historian may know when.The one in the picture, in front of Wieltje village, I regarded as one of the wonders of logistics: built, probably late 1916 or early 1917, right in the front line trench (Schloßstellung, or Cambrai Trench, (location circled in blue on map) right under the noses of the British, not much more than 100 yards away, approximately along the lines of the green cabbage patch in the picture. The spires of Ypres can be seen in the distance, and the 50th Division Memorial to the right.

One can imagine  work taking place, probably unknown to the British, without any apparent movement, noise, or any light at night: the details of the construction are not known but placing reinforcement, and then carrying timber boards, aggregates and cement, and mixing somewhere in the region of 80 tonnes of concrete must have taken considerable labour, effort and ingenuity.However the high degree of workmanship is apparent, the concrete has obviously been well mixed and placed to produce what is most likely a good solid structure. Much information on the problems and logistics involved can be found in "Defending the Ypres Front" by Vancoillie and Bliek.

The bunker had no signs of shell damage so withstood the bombardments prior to the attack on 31st July 1917 and subsequent ones over the next 15 months. Captured by the 6th Liverpool Regiment, who recorded it was "taken with little trouble" from the 38th German Division soon after the 3.50am start (new defensive tactics as stipulated by von Lossberg).

April 1918 saw it again in the German front line as the British withdrew to their original front lines by Wieltje. It was re-taken by the 8th Belgian Division on 28th September and no doubt visited by many returning soldiers over the following decades. Thurlow's 1933 guide shows this and many other bunkers in the immediate area still surviving, however listing in the recent Flanders inventaris of objects from WW1 did not save it. 

As with many other vestiges, modern life and other demands on land for agriculture etc mean the the history the structure could tell is now history itself. Just hope the the others nearby, Pickelhaube and the 3 off Roeselarestraat (Cambrai Reserve Trench) remain for a while yet. 

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wieltje_LI.jpg

Edited by mebu
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What a fine account; but at least we have a record of it. I'm trying to put together a paragraph or two about the tension between returning the landscape to productive use and preserving the history around Ieper, so this really helps. Thank you.

 

Pete.

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Yes Bob the motorway runs between Cambrai Trench and Support on the map above.

 

If you still have Watson photos you will find some in this group labelled AIII.

 

PeterI

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