Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, December 8, 2014

What Happened at Hooge Chateau?

Hooge Chateau, 1915

Hooge Chateau, on the Menin Road and in the heart of the Ypres Salient was the scene of very fierce fighting in every year of  the First World War. The Germans used flame-throwers here for the first time and here also the British adopted steel helmets for the first time. The chateau was completely destroyed, along with the adjacent entire village. 

Hooge Crater

  • On 31 October 1914 the staff of the 1st and 2nd Divisions were wiped out when the chateau was shelled. (This was the critical and decisive day of the First Battle of Ypres.)
  • From 24 May to 3 June 1915 the chateau was defended against German attacks, and in July 1915 crater was made by a mine detonated by the 3rd Division. On 30 July, the Germans took the chateau, and on 9 August it and the crater were regained by the 6th Division. 
  • The Germans retook Hooge on 6 June 1916.
  • At the opening of the Battle of Passchendaele on 31 July 1917, the British 8th Division advanced 1.6 km beyond the chateau. Several large craters from underground mines were created nearby over the course of the 1917 fighting. 
  • The chateau was lost for the last time in April 1918 during the second Ludendorff spring offensive but regained by the 9th (Scottish) and 29th Divisions on 28 September.

Hooge Crater Cemetery

Hooge Crater Cemetery is 4 km east of Ypres on the Menin Road. There are now 5,923 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery, of which 3,579 are unidentified, but special memorials record the names of a number of casualties either known or believed to be buried among them, or whose graves in other cemeteries were destroyed by shellfire.

Across the road from the cemetery located in its former chapel is the Hooge Crater Museum, which opened in 1994. It is the composite collections of two individuals who roamed the battlefields and purchased artifacts from the salient for decades.

The collection is large, eclectic, and utterly fascinating.  The material is presented in the old style — "Here's some stuff to look at" — with none of the audience participation or highly stylized look of the nearby Flanders Fields or Passchendaele Museums — that some old-school types (like your editor) prefer.

Next door to the museum is another must-see. Just to the east, on the grounds of an inn,  is the site of the former crater.  It is now a lovely pond with an outdoor battlefield museum surrounding it.


  1. I Have visited Hoge crater First World War Cemetery several Times as i live not very far from the Cemetrey i live in East Flanders in Heusden close to the Province of West Flanders and the Ypres Salient

  2. I last visited the Hooge Crater in 1963 on a school trip when I lived in England. Unlike now, much of the area was considered dangerous ground as the EOD teams were still at work searching for unexploded ordnance. In 1996 on a museum collegial tour of Ypres battlefields. One hundred years on it is difficult to imagine the thousands and thousands of men who fought and died here. The 1963 was the more interesting as it was easier to follow the fighting as much of the ground still barren and the lines of the trenches and more importantly, the craters. As a retired museum professional, like our editor, I'm old school and prefer the display to tell the story