Sanctuary Wood


. . .  LEST WE FORGET  . . .

The SANCTUARY WOOD Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery

Sanctuary Wood itself was given its name by British troops in November 1914 when it was used in the first years of World War I to give shelter to the troops.  Later, fighting took place in it in September 1915 and it was fought over by Canadian and German soldiers during the Battle of Mount Sorrel in early June 1916. Three small Commonwealth cemeteries were then established in it between May and August 1915 but were largely obliterated during the Battle of Mount Sorrel. When the war finished, traces of one of them were found, containing 137 graves, and became the core of the present Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. It was greatly expanded between 1927 and 1932 with graves being moved in from surrounding areas.  The majority of the graves here are from the battles around Ypres in 1914 and the Allied offensive in late 1917.

The SANCTUARY WOOD Trench Museum

The Sanctuary Wood Museum is privately owned by the grandson of the farmer who reclaimed his land in 1919 when the local people returned to Ypres after the First World War.   A section of the original wood and the trenches in it were cleared of debris and casualties, but generally the farmer left a section of a British trench system as he found it.  This site is now one of the few places on the Ypres Salient battlefields where an original trench layout can be seen in some semblance of what it might have looked like. Elsewhere the trenches were filled in and ploughed over by returning farmers leaving only the occasional chalky outline of what had once been there.

The trench lines behind the museum give a very good feel for what it must have been like to experience the mud and misery of the trenches in the salient. Some other sites are perhaps more exact, and even more clinical in their appearance; at Sanctuary Wood you get the somewhat run-down and dilapidated trenches that zig-zag across the ground much as they might have during the War.

I have included in the photo gallery below nine of the  photographs which I took on a visit there in 2003.   Click on any one thumbnail image to view a slide-show . . .

The text above has been slightly adapted by me from Wikipedia and other sources on the internet




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