11 November 2013


I visited Diksmuide this summer with the kids.  The western front is nearing it's hundred anniversary so it is getting more attention.  In Ypres the daily Last Post bugle call gets nowadays flooded by tourists as if it was the change of the guard at Buckingham palace.  It's not for the show,  it's for the dead. So promised I 'll stay away until 2019.  Just the 1770 Ferraris map,  showing wet moats,  bastions,  and all that, also the kind of sight that attracts French kings for their summer vacation with the support of 20.000 man, ... got it Louis XIV in April 1678.  These are more the improvements made by Vauban afterwards.

I made two panoramic pictures of the view of Diksmuide.  The first is a panoramic painting of how it looked like in 1918, with its very close trenches,  the other the same thing today.  It looked wet,  and it was done on purpose as these are polders and the sluices were used the wrong way around during the war.  The idea of sea level is different in Belgium and Netherlands.  Where here it is the average low tide (everything that gets dry) en in the Netherlands it was the average high tide in Amsterdam (everything that gets wet) AP, setting the polders deeper there.  Over the years the sea has raised and the land lowered (dryer land shrinks and stops being a mire, making it lose its top layer) setting the NAP marking just under the average sea level now.

I found some older woodworking pictures showing all the woodworking present during the war.  Nowadays the wood is gone and the sandbags replaced by, more sturdy but military inappropriate, concrete bags. A pair of then and now pictures taken at de dodengang trenches, it translates in death row but there must be a more appropriate term,  it had a high mortality rate due to the extreme closeness of the opposing forces.  The trenches themselves show a succession of fall back positions.  The enemy coming most likely from the flank.

If I had a picture of the beachhouse of S.M. le Roi in a previous post.  This time a picture of him and his wife during a visit to the trenches.  I didn't remember her being that small when I saw her,  but hen I was at best six year old.

Dug out
The English covered their positions with dug outs,  many of them still exist. Dug Outs are large and deep shelters and for what I could see made mainly out of 2x4s. They allow troops to shelter from heavy artillery fire prior to an attack.  A dug out has been recreated in the museum,  but recent research for the real thing can be found on youtube. As these are polders,  there was much pumping involved.

I backdated the post to the armistice,  thinking it is more appropriate than 30 November.