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Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen

Bastogne
00:46 01/05/2021
Once the battlefield of Europe, Belgium is filled with sites that honour those who died here and immerse visitors in centuries of military history

The 1944-45 Battle of the Bulge, as it’s familiarly known, scarred the province of Luxembourg. The Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes in La Roche-en-Ardenne brims with artefacts, while the Bastogne War Museum (pictured above) is a lively and interactive presentation of the final large-scale offensive of the war. Take a stroll in the neighbouring Peace Wood, where 4,000 trees were planted by children to honour the fallen in 1974. A new attraction, Discover Bastogne War Museum & Outdoors, includes jeep tours of the area.

In Flanders Fields Museum (c) Visit Flanders/Milo Profi

The three most visited World War One sites in Flanders are the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke, the Menin Gate in Ypres – the site of the Last Post ceremony – and the In Flanders Fields Museum, also in Ypres. As the scene of the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, the region remains scarred by its bloody past.

Among the many poignant memorials and museums around the town of Ypres, the most melancholy is the Langemark German military cemetery. Four bronze statues of mourning soldiers watch over the mass graves of more than 44,000 fallen servicemen

Ploegsteert

Plugstreet 14-18 Experience in Comines-Warneton is a World War One interpretation centre focused on the lives of soldiers and local civilians. The semi-buried centre evokes life in military tunnels and trenches and the June 1917 battle of Messines Ridge, among others. A memorial commemorates more than 11,000 lost Commonwealth soldiers.

Waterloo (c) WBT/JL Flémal

You don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate the historic site of Waterloo. From scaling the Lion’s Mound to visiting the newly refurbished Memorial Battle of Waterloo 1815 and its current exhibition on Napoleon, there’s plenty to fill a day out.

A humble landmark in the battlefields of Flanders, the Christmas Day Truce Memorial lies on the edge of a field near the hamlet of Saint-Yvon: a simple cross marking the spot where troops from both sides laid down their arms for an impromptu football match in No Man’s Land on Christmas Day 1914. A new memorial to the event by sculptor Andrew Edwards is near the tourist office of Messines.

Talbot House (c) Visit Flanders/Milo Profi

It was once a place of refuge for the British army from trench warfare. Today, Talbot House in the former garrison town of Poperinge welcomes tourists for a glimpse of the respite it offered weary soldiers of all rank. The house, museum and gardens provide an authentic insight into wartime life.

The Mosane city of Huy is home to a moving memorial to the resistance movement and concentration camps of World War Two at its fort and museum. Built by the Dutch in the early 19th century on the site of an ancient castle, it served as a detention camp for the German army between 1940 and 44.

Loncin Fort (c) WBT/FR Mazy

Loncin Fort symbolises Liège’s heroic resistance at the beginning of World War One; the triangular semi-buried military fortress – for many years a necropolis – is an evocative site and memorial to hundreds of soldiers who lost their lives in its final battle in 1914.

For a saunter back in time to Belgium’s wartime exploits, head to Haacht’s anti-tank ditch. It’s possible to wander along a 3km concrete wall that was once part of the 400km K-W defensive line, built from 1939. The 3.5m-high wall is flanked by a ditch with several locks and dams, lying partly in a nature reserve.

More from The Bulletin's summer travel guide

  1. Walk this way: Discover Belgium on foot
  2. Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens
  3. Top spots for spectacular scenery
  4. The best culture this summer is outside
  5. Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen
  6. Delve into Belgium’s rich industrial past
  7. Local food at its finest
  8. Come on in, the water’s lovely
  9. The finest spots for a summer apero
  10. Big days out for all the family
  11. Seven cycling experiences to discover
  12. Top heritage sites for a fine day out
  13. Don't miss out this summer thanks to our agenda of events in Belgium
Written by The Bulletin