The End of a War. National and Private Monuments Commemorating the Great War in Flanders
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The End of a War. National and Private Monuments Commemorating the Great War in Flanders

(Piet Chielens) The Low Countries - 2006, № 14, pp. 121-135

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In the course of 2005 an inventory of relics of the Great War in the Westhoek region of Flanders will become available. This joint initiative by the Province of West Flanders and the Service for Monuments and Landscapes of the Flemish Community will contain over 1200 entries: cemeteries, monuments, bunkers, trenches, memorial plaques, stretches of country, mine craters, stained-glass windows, dugouts, thanksgiving chapels, archeological sites, street names… It will be an exceptionally useful and valuable tool for assessing the significance which the Great War once had for this part of the world, and which it still has to this day. Now that the generation of World War I has practically died out, these relics provide the only material evidence of this devastating experience, and the memorial monuments seem to recover their original significance. A number of those national monuments appeared in Flanders after the War. They are all ‘national' by nature, yet they are all very different. The differences define some general meaning and purpose for such monuments, yesterday but also today and tomorrow. The most important of these national monuments in the Westhoek are the Yser Tower in Diksmuide, a Flemish nationalistic monument, built twice; The Menin Gate at Ypres, the oldest of the national monuments here and one that serves a double purpose; and the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Mesen, the most recent and maybe the very last of the large national monuments about the Great War ever to be erected.

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