The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium

The Front Line (red dashed line) stabilized east of Ypres, forming a salient in the Allied Armies' Front Line at the end of the 1st Battle of Ypres by 22nd November 1914.
The front line stabilized east of Ypres forming a salient by 22nd November 1914.

A salient is an area of the battlefield that extends into enemy territory and is surrounded on three sides. The Ypres Salient is centered around the ancient town of Ypres in Belgium (now known by its modern Flemish name — Ieper). The Ypres Salient was formed after the German Army was prevented from capturing Ypres in November 1914. From that time a tactically advantageous German Front Line was established on the slightly higher ground that surrounded the town to the north, east and south of it.

As you stand in the main square of Ypres and survey the ornate buildings around you it is hard to believe that the whole area was razed to the ground during the war and then later completely rebuilt.

Visitors to the Ypres Salient have been increasing steadily over recent years. There are now a number of good museums to visit, accommodation for visitors is plentiful and there are a growing number of tour companies and guides eager to explain the history of the area.

Local Events

Events on the Ypres Salient Battlefields

Buglers of the Last Post Association in the uniform of the Ieper volunteer Fire Brigade play Last Post at the Menin Gate.
Buglers of the Last Post Association play Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ieper.

Last Post Ceremony

Every evening at 20.00 hours the road running through the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is closed to traffic. Buglers of the Last Post Association step out under the memorial to play Last Post as a daily ceremony of Remembrance.

Daily Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial

Armistice Day Commemoration

11th November is a public holiday in Belgium. The town of Ypres/Ieper commemorates the Armistice of November 1918 with a number of events including The Poppy Parade and a Special Last Post at 11.00 hours as an act of Remembrance at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing.

Annual Armistice Day Commemoration

Battles of the Ypres Salient

German prisoners being marched through Ypres during the Battle of the Menin Road in September 1917. The damaged building on the right is St. Martin's cathedral. The gateway on the left is the cloistral gate to the St. Martin's convent. GWPDA
German prisoners being marched through Ypres during the Battle of the Menin Road

Within the first few months of the outbreak of the Great War the Ypres Salient witnessed the first of several major battles to occur there before the war ended on 11th November 1918. The major battles comprised:

Battles of the Ypres Salient

Towns & Villages

Ypres - Ieper

The Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle) rebuilt stone by stone after it had been completely destroyed by 1918.
The Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle)

The medieval town of Ypres (nowadays called by its Flemish name Ieper) was located at the centre of the 1914-1918 battlefields of the Ypres Salient. Ypres was razed to the ground during four years of fighting.

Ypres - Ieper

Towns & Villages of the Ypres Salient Battlefields

Museums

Display in the In Flanders Fields Museum. (1)
Display in the In Flanders Fields Museum.

The Ypres Salient battlefields today offer numerous public and private museums. These museums contain resources ranging from rare battlefield artefacts and archive collections to original trench systems. Education Services are also available for school parties at the larger museums.

Ypres Salient Museums

Cemeteries

Bedford House Cemetery, south of Ypres.
Bedford House Cemetery, south of Ypres.

The scale of military casualties from the German, French and British Armies during the battles of the Ypres Salient amounted to several hundred thousand dead. Their graves are marked by over 100 military burial grounds on the old Ypres Salient 1914-1918 battlefields.

Ypres Salient Cemeteries

Monuments & Memorials

The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.

In addition to the military cemeteries, there are a number of large memorials to commemorate the names of “The Missing”, those servicemen whose bodies were never found or could not be identified. These memorials commemorate those who have no known grave in the Ypres Salient. There are also memorials to individuals, military units and civilians.

Ypres Salient Monuments

Battlefield Remains

German bunker near the village of Zandvoorde south-east of Ypres.
German bunker near the village of Zandvoorde south-east of Ypres.

There are numerous sites to visit in the Ypres Salient where remains of the fighting can be seen. These include trenches, mine craters and concrete bunkers.

Battle Remains in the Ypres Salient

Accommodation

There is a range of visitors' accommodation in the area of the 1914-1918 Ypres Salient battlefields to suit all budgets. As a guide this website provides listings of hotels, guesthouses, hostels and Bed & Breakfast, self-catering, full board accommodation and campsites.

Accommodation in the Ypres Salient

Where to Eat in and around Ypres

Cafés on the Grote Markt in Ypres.
Cafes in Ypres market square.

There are a wide range of options for eating at a range of restaurants, bistros, cafés and tea rooms for the individual traveller and tour groups.

Cafés and Restaurants on the Ypres Salient Battlefields

Tourist Information

Visitor Centre for Ypres and the Westhoek.
Visitor Centre for Ypres and the Westhoek.

Information and links for online tourist information or tourist offices for Flanders and West-Flanders (West-Vlaanderen).

Tourist Information for the Ypres Salient & West Flanders

Acknowledgements

GWPDA Photographs with grateful thanks to the Great War Primary Document Archive: Photos of the Great War. Website: www.gwpda.org/photos/

(1) Photograph courtesy of Ypres Visitor Centre, copyright Stad Ieper.