Passchendaele 1917 Memorial Museum - Zonnebeke - Belgium

Address: Ieperstraat 5, Zonnebeke (See map)
Telephone: +32 (0)51 770441

Shop: shop present
Restaurant/refreshments: refreshments
Size of the museum/site: medium
Year of visit: 2006
Overall rating:

Description: Looking over the top of your trench, into no man's land, you see nothing but peaceful dew hanging over the muddy fields. The sounds of agony you hear are making your stomach turn though... The first wave of soldiers that went over the top got slaughtered by machine guns almost instantly, and you're next. You start to panic and you can't breath properly because of the immense stress. A comrade next to you is puking his guts out in anxiety. Your instinct tells you to run away from this godforsaken place as fast as possible, but you've got no other option than to climb that ladder in front of you and go over the top as soon as the lieutenant's whistle blows. And there you have it... a shrieking sound marks the start of your advance, your bit for King and Country, your contribution to victory, your descent into hell. With sweaty hands and an incredibly dry throat you climb the ladder. Trembling all over you advance onto the enemy trenches. Watching your mates running in front of you suddenly sets you straight. All fear has gone now and you're calm and focussed. Let's have 'em!! Jumping into the enemy trench, bayonet fixed, you see him. Unfortunately he saw you first and before you know it your chest is pierced by the cold steel of a knife and all goes black...

What must it have been like eh, fighting in the trenches during the Great War? As the number of surviving veterans of the war is getting smaller by the hour, the only way to find out is to get on your bike a bit sharpish and visit the museums in Belgium and northern France.

Out of all the museums dealing with WWI the Passchendaele 1917 Memorial Museum is one of the best. It's top of the notch in Belgium by a long way. They have great dioramas, including a remake of a large British bunker-network. Another strong point of the museum is the way they accompany exhibits by thrilling and easy-to-read information panels in the Dutch, German, French and English languages. It is almost unbelievable to see how little the museum spends on marketing campaigns. We noticed they've finally put a decent website up, which is the least you could expect from any museum. It's like a hidden gem, hard to find but oh so rewarding if you track it down. Our only moan is that the museum should be bigger, maybe double, no, better still triple the size! Hopefully more and more visitors make their way to the town of Zonnebeke after reading this review, as it is definitely worth your effort! Go on then, get your lardy ass over there now!

The entrance to the museum in Zonnebeke.

Personal belongings of the flying aces, the very pioneers of aircraft warfare.

The museum features quite a lot of display cases with personal artifacts.

A realisticly crafted cavalry unit.

The typical outfits of an English, Scottish and French soldier.

An example of the brilliant information displays found throughout the exhibition.

Some of the North African French Colonial troops involved in the Great War.

A showcase of the various gasmasks used in WWI, from the earliest improvised types to the technically sophisticated ones from the latter period of the war.

Diorama of a communication post in the trenches.

Two British Tommies anxiously awaiting an attack, gasmasks already put on in case they have to face chemical warfare.