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The Bellfry of Ypres

Ypres (French, generally used in English;1 Ieper official name in the local Dutch) is a municipality located in Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium, and in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the towns of Boezinge, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke and Zuidschote. On January 1st, 2005 Ypres had a total population of 36.120.The total area is 130.61 km² which gives a population density of 268.13 inhabitants per km².

During the Middle Ages, Ypres was a prosperous town with a population of 80,000. It was renowned for its linen trade with England. During this time, cats, then the sign of the devil and witchcraft, were thrown off the cloth halls, to get rid of evil demons. Today, this is commemorated with the Cat Parade, a triennial parade through town, depicting the history of the cat.

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Cloth Hall at night

The area around Ypres was the site of three major battles in World War I. In the First Battle of Ypres (October 31 to November 22, 1914) the British captured the town from the Germans. In the Second Battle of Ypres (April 22 to May 25, 1915) the Germans used poison gas for the first time on the Western Front (they had used it for the first time at the Battle of Bolimow on January 1, 1915) and captured high ground east of the town. In the Third Battle of Ypres (July 21 to November 6, 1916; also known as the Battle of Passchendaele) the British, Canadians and ANZAC forces recaptured the ridge at a terrible cost of lives.

English-speaking soldiers in that war often referred to Ypres by the (perhaps humorous) mispronunciation "Wipers".

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Ruins of Ypres - 1919

Because of the fighting the town was all but obliterated with much shelling from the Germans. After the war the town was rebuilt with the main square, including the noted Cloth Hall and town hall being rebuilt as much like the original as possible. The rest of the town is more modern in appearance.

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The Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres is dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the war who have no known grave. The Cloth Hall is today a museum dedicated to Ypres's role in the First World War. The landscape is littered with wargraves, both of the Allied side and the Central powers. Also described in the famous poem by John McCrae, "In Flanders fields, where the poppies grow"

Ypres these days has the title city of peace, and has a close friendship with that other town where war has had a big impact, Hiroshima. It's a rather gruesome link; both towns witnessed mankind at its worst. Ypres was the first place where chemical warfare was employed ( actually this was at Steenstraete, a small area close by), while Hiroshima was the location for the debute of nuclear warfare.

Every evening since 1928 the Last Post has been sounded beneath the imposing arches of the Menin Gate Memorial. This tribute is played in honour of the memory of British Empire soldiers who fought and died in the immortal Ypres Salient during the First World War. The ceremony was stopped by occupying German forces during the Second World War. It was resumed on the very evening of liberation — 6 September, 1944 — not withstanding the heavy fighting that was still taking place in other parts of the town.

External links


1 The Dutch language was restricted by the French-speaking Belgian ruling class at the time of the First World War so that as a result the French name was used by British soldiers fighting there—they however, pronounced it "Wipers," probably as a result of poor education in pronunciation of the French language rather than any deliberate humour.da:Ieper de:Ypern eo:Ipro nl:Ieper pl:Ypres


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