Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, located in the Zonnebeke Chateau
The Zonnebeke château, location of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

This museum tells the story of the war in the Ypres Salient with special emphasis on the Battle of Passchendaele 1917, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War. Zonnebeke Chateau is situated in the centre of Zonnebeke, a few kilometres from the A19 (exit 4) and about 3 kilometres miles from Tyne Cot Military Cemetery, the largest British and Commonwealth cemetery in the world.

The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 is the ideal place to start a visit of the Passchendaele battlefields. During the Great War of 1914-1918 the villages of Passendale / Passchendaele, Zonnebeke, Beselare, Geluveld and Zandvoorde became famous for the part they played on the battlefields of the Ypres Salient. The area was devastated by the end of the war in November 1918.

Opening a New Museum Wing and Trench Experience

Trench at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Trench at Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

From Saturday 13th July 2013 the museum will formally open three new sections for visitors:

  1. A new wing dedicated to The Battle of Passchendaele, one of the major battles in the Third Battle of Ypres, 1917.
  2. New galleries focusing on the part played by the different nations in The Battle of Passchendaele 1917, leading to a network of outdoor British and German trenches.
  3. A new gallery called “Remembrance”.

The Museum and its Collection

Life-size French soldiers in a scene at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 is a follow-up to the Streekmuseum that was located on the second floor of Zonnebeke chateau from 1989 until 2002. A valuable collection has been built up which can be considered as the biggest public collection of the First World War in West Flanders.

The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 was opened in Zonnebeke Chateau on 25th April (ANZAC Day) 2004. The museum was formerly called the Streekmuseum.

For the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 the interior of Zonnebeke chateau was adapted with respect for the authenticity of the building. The replica dugout rooms are located in the cellars, the first floor houses the reception, the tourist information centre and room for temporary exhibitions. The museum is on the second floor.

Third Battle of Ypres (The Battle of Passchendaele)

The museum focuses on the tragedy of the Third Battle of Ypres within the whole of the First World War and the basic problem of the breakthrough through the German front line. In nine rooms the visitor is given a chronological survey of the war:

The story of the breakthrough at Passchendaele is presented by unique photos, a large number of historical artefacts and several dioramas.

Replica Trench

Part of the replica trench at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Replica trench at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

In the second part of the museum the visitor walks through a 1917 trench reconstruction and descends into a reconstruction of a 20 foot deep dugout with head quarters, accommodation, workshop, communication room and first aid post. In the tenth and last room of the dugout the visitor can see historical photos, film of excavations and relics.

Dugouts in Zonnebeke

The Third Battle of Ypres , also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, (31st July - 10th November 1917) had smashed the landscape around Zonnebeke to pieces. Having conquered the enemy territory on the Passchendaele ridge the British Army established a new line. There was, however, very little surviving natural shelter to protect them from enemy artillery or air observation in the form of woods, farms and buildings. Specialist Tunnelling Companies, which had been working in the south of the Salient preparing for the Battle of Messines from 7th June 1917, were moved into the northern sector of the Ypres Salient to construct underground shelters and dugouts.

Entrance to one of the replica dugouts at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Replica dugout at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

In January 1918 25,000 British tunnellers and 50,000 attached infantry built almost 200 independent constructions. These dugouts were built to accommodate from 50 to 2,000 men (such as at Wieltje and Hill 63). In March 1918 there were more men living underground than there are inhabitants living in the area today. After the war, when the battlefields were cleared and the fields were levelled during the 1920s, the entrances to these underground constructions were closed up and forgotten. Eighty years on, although some are flooded, they are still in good condition and are now the most authentic relics of the Great War in Flanders.

Zonnebeke and its five villages have the biggest concentration of underground constructions. In 1983 a dugout was discovered at the rear of the Terca brickworks. The dugout, called Bremen Redoubt, was open to the public until 1998. During the archaeological excavations of the Augustinian abbey a second dugout was discovered under Zonnebeke church. The outline of the dugout is marked in an archaeological garden. The most important discovery took place on 21st February when a farmer’s wife disappeared into the ground while she was washing the windows. Beecham Dugout was discovered no more than 400 metres from Tyne Cot Cemetery (Passendale). All dugouts are located within a radius of about a mile from the museum, Zonnebeke Church dugout being in the grounds of the Zonnebeke chateau itself.

Because these dugouts are generally not accessible for the public, a life-like reconstruction has been built in the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.

Educational Service

The Road to Passchendaele: Living History Experience for Students & Teachers

The museum has taken on an original approach to learning by offering students (14 years and over) and teachers the opportunity to play a personal part in a Living History event. This is a full day event.

The event is historically correct, based on a real story and led by one or two experienced guides. A group will put itself in the position of each of its members being an Australian soldier in this platoon back in 1917. The members of the group will learn about their individual man, how he lived and will discover his fate by the end of the day. The Living History event includes:

For information and bookings (minium 20 persons, maximum 50 persons) contact:

Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Ieperstraat 7/A, 8980 Zonnebeke

Telephone: +32-(0)51 77 04 41

Email: toerisme@zonnebeke.be

Education Contact Details

For information about facilities and activities for students and teachers see the museum's website:

Website: www.passchendaele.be

Email: education@passchendaele.be

The Passchendaele Archives

Some of the many artefacts on display at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Displays at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

The Museum is undertaking a project to put faces and stories to the names of the dead and missing of the Battle of Passchendaele by building a personal record with photographs, family documentation and information from military sources.

To avoid a duplication of the database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission the museum will only create a file if a photograph is available and only if the man concerned lost his life between 12th July and 15th November, 1917.

Passchendaele Roll of Honour

The list of names already in the database is available to download as a pdf file. See the museum website link (below):

If a member of your family fought at Passchendaele and died in action or of wounds and you have information about him the museum would like to hear from you. For more information see the museum's “Archives” webpage and the “Roll of Honour” at:

Website: www.passchendaele.be

Email: archives@passchendaele.be

Museum Shop

Books for sale in the museum shop.
Museum shop

The museum shop sells a range of maps, books, cards and items relating to the First World War and Remembrance.

Tour Routes: A landscape of memories

The museum provides specially mapped-out routes for walkers and cyclists. It is also involved with preservation projects on the battlefields and can arrange access to selected sites on privately owned property.

Zandvoorde German Bunker

German bunker preserved at Zandvoorde, south-east of Ypres.
German bunker at Zandvoorde

Zandvoorde is the location of a very impressive German bunker dating back to 1916. The bunker consists of six compartments. It gives the opportunity to look upon Passchendaele 1917 from a German point of view.

Admission is free. Access is open all hours through a small gateway.

For the location of this bunker see it listed on our Battle Remains in the Ypres Salient page

German Command Post Bunker at Zandvoorde

Cryer Farm: German First Aid Post near Hooge

A German first aid post was discovered near Clapham Junction (near the Menin Road east of Hooge). The underground complex is known as Cryer Farm, named after a British lieutenant who fell during the capture of Geluveld in 1917. He is believed to be Second Lieutenant Bernard Noel Cryer of the 7th Battalion, London Regiment. He was killed in action on 15th September 1917 and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (panels 52-54).

This unique bunker is located on private property and can only be visited upon request via the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.

Bayernwald, Wijtschate

Original German trench system preserved at Bayernwald
German original trench system at Bayernwald

German trenches at Bayernwald, Wijtschate. Thanks to a collaboration with the Association for Battlefield Archaeology in Flanders, the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 can also arrange a FREE visit to a restored German trench-system in Wytschaete, including 300 metres of trenches, four concrete bunkers, a mortar post and a 100 feet deep mineshaft. This is a real experience for visitors as they can walk through the trenches, discovering the bunkers etc., similar to Hill 62, but German and authentically rebuilt on archaeological traces and with educational plates and reception room.

There is no entrance fee, but a guide is advisable to describe in detail what you see and how men survived in these circumstances. A qualified guide costs about € 20 euro / hour.

Bayernwald German Trenches

Information Plaques on the Battlefields

Information plaques with details (both in Dutch and in English), maps and photos can be found on several World War I sites:

Group Coach Tour (3 hours)

Also, groups can book a 3 hour standard coach tour which includes a guided visit to the major war sites in Zonnebeke, Polygon Wood, Clapham Junction, Menin Road, Gheluvelt, Broodseinde and Passchendaele. The price of the guided tour is available on request. If more time is available this standard tour can be extended. The tour includes three visits:

Visitor Information for the Memorial Museum Passchendaele

Display at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Display at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

Opening Hours

Daily from 09.00 hours - 17.00 hours

Closed: December and January

Admission

Admission charge (to check the prices please email the contact address below):

For information contact toerisme@zonnebeke.be

Location of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

Leave Ypres / Ieper centre via the Menin Gate and drive straight over the traffic lights onto the Zonnebeeksweg N332 road to Potijze and Zonnebeke. Zonnebeke village is approximately 7 kilometres from Ypres / Ieper.

Shortly before you enter Zonnebeke village from the direction of Ypres you will see a brickworks on your left. At the roundabout shortly after that go straight on. After about 500 metres the road bends to the left. About 200 metres further on look to the right for a right turn next to a high wall (which surrounds the chateau) into Berten Pilstraat. A sign directs you to the car and coach parking area of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.

Contact Details

Zonnebeke church seen from the grounds and lake at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Lake in the grounds of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Berten Pilstraat 5/A, 8980 Zonnebeke, Belgium

Telephone: +32 (0) 51 77 04 41

Fax: +32 (0) 51 78 07 50

Email: info@passchendaele.be

Web: www.passchendaele.be

Related Topics

Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing

Aerial view of Tyne Cot cemetery taken in 1980.
Aerial view of Tyne Cot Cemetery dating from 1980.

For detailed information about Tyne Cot cemetery and memorial see our pages at:

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing

Acknowledgements

Text based on information provided by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.

Photographs of the museum displays courtesy of Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.