The British World War I Charing Cross Advance Dressing Station bunker in Ploegsteert, Belgium. The bunker was used to treat casualties running up to the Battle of Messines Ridge. Part of the bunker today is used as a house for birds.
For over a century now, the four seasons bring constant changes to the scarred landscapes and ruins of the World War I battlefields in Belgium and northern France, yet many of the relics still exist, both above and below the surface.
“As a soldier, I survived World War I when most of my comrades did not.”
Spring has its red poppies; summer its sun-kissed green foliage; fall stuns with vibrant colors; and winter brings the bleakness of rain and mud.
Two German World War I bunkers are situated on farmland in Pervijze, Belgium. One hundred years after the guns went silent, thousands of bunkers still exist along what was the Western Front which stretched from Belgium to the Swiss border. Many are protected by local historical authorities, while many others decay slowly.
Soldiers of the 1914-1918 Great War had precious little time to appreciate the color. Instead they endured the mud as relentless shelling destroyed woods and villages and created desolate treeless landscapes, while many cities were reduced to heaps of rubble.
One hundred years and the force of nature have slowly changed these haunted places, yet many of the relics still exist, both above and below the surface. Some bunkers have turned into stables; shell craters became drinking ponds for cattle. Many trenches and tunnels remained largely untouched on what was known as the Western Front, a battle line stretching from Belgium to the Swiss border.
World War I British trenches are preserved at Hill 62, Sanctuary Wood, in Ypres, Belgium. The farmer who owned the site was required to leave his land in 1914 when the war began. After returning to reclaim the land much was cleared away, but he maintained a large section of British trench.
Each season offers a different view to the relic hunter. A road that seems to yield nothing in summer due to heavy foliage unveils a trove of treasures in the desolate winter. The Ziegler Bunker in Boezinge, Belgium, is likely one of the best preserved on the Ypres Salient, and the line of bunkers on Aubers Ridge in France give the viewer an idea of how important high ground was in World War I.
An artillery shell lies in the opening of a World War I bunker near Beaucamps-Ligny, France. Fifteen British WWI soldiers were re-buried at nearby Y Farm Commonwealth cemetery in Bois-Grenier, France, nearly a century after they died in battle. The soldiers, who served with the 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, were discovered in a field five years ago in Beaucamps Ligny and identified through a variety of means, including DNA.
The World War I British bunker at Hellfire Corner in Ypres, Belgium. The bunker lies near a section referred to in World War I as Hellfire Corner, so named for the frequent shelling by the German Army.
The remains of the World War I German Lange Max gun in Koekelare, Belgium. The gun was originally designed to be a naval gun, but was later adapted as a railroad gun which was capable of long range.
World War I German bunker is situated on a farm in Langemark, Belgium. The bunker was constructed by German troops and formed part of the first line of defense.
A wooden cross with a poppy is left at the World War I bomb crater named the “Pool of Peace” in Heuvelland, Belgium. The crater was created by the largest of 19 mine explosions detonated to signal the start of the Messines phase of the Third Battle of Ypres. The explosion was set off on June 7, 1917, underneath one of the then highest German front-line positions on Messines Ridge. The sound of the 19 mine explosions was reportedly heard as far away as London.
A bomb crater from World War I named “Ultimo Crater” is surrounded by a fence and trees in St. Yves, Belgium. The crater is a result of one of several explosions under the German front line in WWI.
A World War I bunker is situated next to a modern house in Menen, Belgium. Many WWI and WWII bunkers in Belgium are protected and cannot be removed from the land.
The World War I Ziegler bunker in Boezinge, Belgium, is seen. The bunker is sometimes referred to as the “Viking Ship” due to its shape. It was constructed by the German army and later conquered by the French Army.
The remains of a German World War I bunker is situated at the Australian Memorial Park in Fromelles, France. The park is situated on what would have been the German defensive line during battles in 1916 against Australian forces.
A World War I bunker is situated at the Fort of Walem in Walem, Belgium. The fort was built in 1878 as part of the fortifications around the city of Antwerp. After heavy shelling during WWI in 1914, the fort surrendered and under the rubble still lay the bodies of Belgian soldiers.
A World War I German-built bunker is situated next to a farm building in Lizerne, Belgium. Local archaeologists have recently discovered Belgian and French trenches in the area, which was bitterly fought over during the war and was also the site of one of the first poison gas attacks.
Horses eat in a pasture surrounding a World War I German-built bunker in St. Jan, Belgium.
The remains of the Chateau de la Hutte, in Ploegsteert, Belgium. The chateau, due to its high position, served as an observation post for the British artillery but soon afterward was destroyed by German artillery. The cellars would serve as a shelter for a great part of the war, and Canadian soldiers soon nicknamed it “Henessy Chateau” after the name of the owner.
Sugar beets are piled high in front of a German World War I bunker on farmland in Wervik, Belgium.
The World War I Anzac Camp bunkers in Voormezele, Belgium. The bunkers were originally constructed by the British. Their location was close to the front line with trenches running both in front and in back of the bunkers.
A restored World War I German trench at the Bayernwald Trench site in Wijtschate, Belgium. The area was instrumental for the German Army in the assault on Messines Ridge. The trench was restored in 1998 after being abandoned for nearly 100 years and is based on an actual German trench that existed on the site.
“Victorious troops are those who kill more, and here we were the victims. This put the finishing touch to our demoralisation. The soldiers had lost conviction long ago. Now they lost confidence.”
― Gabriel Chevallier, Fear: A Novel of World War I
A large World War I German-built bunker is situated in the center of a farm field on Aubers Ridge near Illies, France. Aubers Ridge offered German troops as of October 1914 a strategic advantage by being located on the high ground near the River Lys.
World War I German bunker is situated on a farm in Langemark, Belgium. The bunker, an above-ground structure, was located just behind the German front line.
A World War I bunker is situated next to a muddy field in La Bassee, France. La Bassee was occupied by the German army from October 1914 and was part of the battleground of what is known as the “Race to the Sea.”
A World War I German-built bunker is situated at the end of a reconstructed trench at the Bayernwald Trench site in Wijtschate, Belgium. The area was instrumental for the German Army in the assault on Messines Ridge.
A British World War I bunker is situated between two newly planted trees in Wijtschate, Belgium.
A World War I bunker is covered in overgrowth in Fromelles, France. One hundred years after the guns went silent thousands of bunkers still exist along what was the Western Front, stretching from Belgium to the Swiss border.
A German World War I commando bunker is situated next to a house in Zandvoorde, Belgium. Many bunkers are protected by local historical authorities while many others are slowly decaying. The Zandvoorde bunker has been a listed monument since 1999.
The World War I Lettenberg bunker is situated in Kemmel, Belgium. The bunker, one of four British concrete shelters built into the hill, were constructed in 1917. The shelters were later captured by the German army in 1918.
A World War I German-built bunker is situated next to the roadside in La Bassee, France. The bunker was named Le Trois Maisons (the three houses). La Bassee was occupied by the German army from October 1914 and was part of the battleground of what is known as the “Race to the Sea.”
A World War I bunker is situated on Aubers Ridge near Illies, France. Aubers Ridge offered German troops as of October 1914 a strategic advantage by being located on the high ground near the River Lys.
A World War I German machine gun post bunker is situated in a field in Langemark, Belgium.
“World War I was the most colossal, murderous, mismanaged butchery that has ever taken place on earth. Any writer who said otherwise lied, So the writers either wrote propaganda, shut up, or fought.”
― Ernest Hemingway