Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

In the summer of 1915, the First World War in Flanders had reached an uneasy stalemate. The opposing troops sat in their trenches, sometimes a mere 50 metres away from each other. Now and then, night patrols were sent into No-Man’s Land, but generally it was a time of inaction.

It was a situation that was going to last for two years. But when it came to an end, it was with the appalling bloodbath of Passchendaele in autumn 1917, during which 245,000 Allied and 217,000 German soldiers lost their lives.

The Battle of Passchendaele is the main focus of Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Zonnebeke. Called MMP17 for short, the museum is housed in the attractive Zonnebeke Chateau. MMP17-museum1

If you want to understand the why and how of the Battle of Passchendaele, this is the place to visit. It takes you through the run-up to the battle, the goal (capturing the tiny village of Passchendaele, which was already in ruins), the various attacks, and the result (8 km of ground were captured; nearly half a million casualties).

A short animated movie explains the timeline of the battle with a series of maps and original movies. And of course there is a vast collection of all sorts of historical objects, authentic letters, posters and other documents, uniforms of the various armies and photographs which give a vivid insight into life and death in the thick mud of Passchendaele.

The Dugout Experience is interesting: it takes you underground into a mock-up of the British Army’s quarters, while outside in the museum’s grounds, you can walk through reconstructions of German and British trenches.

I spent a morning at the museum, and then walked firstly to Polygon Wood to visit the Buttes New Cemetery, the 5th Australian Division Memorial and Polygon Wood Cemetery.

MMP17-buttes-new

Later I walked to Tyne Cot Cemetery.

MMP17-tyne-cot

I will cover both these places in subsequent blog posts.

In short, the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 is an excellent if sobering place to visit to get a glimpse into one of the worst nightmares of a nightmare war.

MMP17-23

14 comments

  1. 38,000 Australians fell there either killed, wounded or missing it was sadly not uncommon for families to lose more than one member during this battle. From a population of just 4,940,815 – 416,809 enlisted, 60,000 were killed, 156,000 wounded (216,000 killed or wounded). Every city or town no matter how big or small in Australia has a war memorial to the dead of WW1, no place was left untouched. It’s hard to imagine the gap that was left in society by the war to end all wars. What a waste.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I visited an Australian memorial Glen and will write more about that in a forthcoming blog. Some amazing numbers you shared: I reckon that’s about 20% of the male population enlisted.

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  2. Passchendaele has always symbolized in Canada the slaughter that was WW1 with over 15,000 Canadian souls being lost – 2500 in one day alone. Sounds like a wonderful museum although it would seem impossible to represent the tens of thousands who drowned in the mud and blood that was that battlefield. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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