History

Our journey to Paris of over 800 kms, will trace much of the Western Front  in France and Belgium at the height of World War One.  

The Western Front, 1917

Beginning in Westhoek on the Yzer, we’ll visit Veurne, Dunkirk, Armentieres, Fromelles and Lille, go down the Canal du Norde, along the Somme to Villiers-Bretonneaux, up Mont San Quentin, and finally down the Marne to Paris.  

Our planned journey to Paris and a little beyond, PC Navigo map.

 

Flanders today seems an idyllic patchwork of farmland and towns, many built around market places that appear to date from medieval times.  But the appearance is deceptive.  World War One devastated south-western Belgium.   

A road in Westhoek region.The farmland were muddy battlefields and many of the town centres have to be rebuilt from flattened ruins. The old Flanders town of Ypres like many others, totally destroyed.

 

For hundreds of years when wars were fought in Europe, particularly between France and Holland or England, Flanders would be where great battles were fought; Waterloo, the most famous.   

A great area of fertile land was flooded with sea water to halt the German progress.

 

In World War One, the Germans saw Nieuwpoort as an ideal staging point for invading Britain.  Tens of thousands on both sides lost their lives and lie in the many well tended war cemeteries.   

Nieuwpoort coastline – now a Queensland Gold Coast (Australia) equivalent on the North Sea.

 

The war went on three levels.  As well as in the trenches most of us are familiar with, tunnellers, including Australians dug a warren of tunnels down into the sandy soil; so many that in the 1990s parts of towns reportedly collapsed as they were not filled in after the war.  

Australian war artist Will Dyson’s drawing of our tunnellers under Nieuwpoort.

 

Australian tunnellers in Nieuwpoort.

 

Ten thousand feet above the ground the men of the Australian Flying Corps along with the Royal Flying Corp were pioneering a new technology and ways to wage war.  The Australians, many of whom had grown up in the bush were recognised for their skills as observers and developed the first aerial mapping techniques as well as excelling at bombing, and dog fights.   

Hudson Fysh behind the guns, later to launch Qantas.

 

The war in the skies above.

 

5 Responses to History

  1. j.s.mcleod says:

    Greetings Lesley, I am writing about Nieuwpoort and I am wondering where you got your images? Do you and your partner do tours? Maybe i can tour with you for a couple of days? I am planing to come to Belgium next year for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. I am blogging about a soldier’s letter which was sent from Nieuwpoort. I will start publishing around Aug 5th, 2014. Check it out at scotchrood.com. All the best, Janet

    • Hello Janet .. thank you for being in touch. Most of our photographs are taken by me (unless otherwise noted) – we had a very interesting time in Nieuwpoort and spent a lot of time there for various reasons. We don’t do tours, our barge and time on board is how we choose to spend our time. Lucky us. Thank you for your blog regarding the letter from Nieuwpoort. Lesley and Stewart

  2. Denis Foster says:

    It seems a long time since we read your blog and caught up with you both. We hope all is well. You certainly seems to be making themost of your travels. I will refer your blog to another friend who is interested in canal travel.

    • Lesley says:

      Hi Denis .. so nice to hear from you. Yes, all is well with us .. we’re getting excited about our return to Australia for a few months, arriving back in Sydney on 17th April. All the very best to you both.

  3. Pingback: We have a new section on our blog: History | Endellion Blog

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