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In The Heart of No Man’s Land for the WSJ (paywall), author Mark Yost claims the new Memorial Museum Passchendaele is the best museum among the sad remnants of the trench warfare that tore up Western Europe a century ago.
But now, as we approach August’s 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the French museums have been unseated from pride of place on the Western Front by Belgium’s newly expanded Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, housed in a château in this picturesque suburb outside Ypres.
This is largely because the curators have made creative use of the large space to allow the war to unfold slowly and tell its own story, and because the presentation includes a gripping display of historic and modern-day footage that I’ve seen at no other museum.
What’s really stunning is the final analysis of the 1917 Passchendaele battles: 245,000 Allies and 215,000 Germans killed during a 100-day battle to gain just 5 miles.
The museum concludes outdoors with a maze of trench works showing how they differed depending on the occupiers.
The author mentions other key memorial sites that suggest a loop out of Brussels that I am exploring for the fall. A circle of Brussels – Passchendaele, Belgium – Albert, France – Péronne, France – Verdun, France – Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (country collecting!) – Brussels looks to clock in at about 9 hours of driving time so very reasonable for a 3-4 day trip. Diverting at the beginning to Dunkirk sounds interesting for its connection to another war, though it seems there is much less extant reminder to visit.
Readers, have you visited any of these WWI battlegrounds? Your recommendations?