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Ypres: ‘The most dangerous spot in the world’

The Story

From 1914-1918, the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium was the deadliest place in Europe. It was once a transportation hub, but the war quickly reduced it to "just a battered track between heaps of wreckage." Three major battles left hundreds of thousands dead, and more than a million wounded. As we see in this clip, a group of citizens makes sure that these sacrifices are remembered every day. 

Medium: Television
Program: 7 O'Clock Show
Broadcast Date: Nov. 11, 1964
: Bob Quintrell
Duration: 26:37
Photo: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-000334

Did You know?

• Ypres is an ancient town and municipality located in West Flanders, Belgium. It became a key location during the war because it stood in the way of German expansion across Belgium into France. The Germans formed a salient (a projection into enemy territory) at Ypres, and the area was bombarded for most of the war. The town was reduced to rubble.

• In late 1914, the British captured the salient during the First Battle of Ypres. The Second Battle of Ypres, which took place in April 1915, marked the first major appearance for the Canadians on European battlefields. At great cost, the Canadians pushed back the Germans, establishing Canada's reputation internationally as a force to be reckoned with. It was the first time a colonial power had forced a European force to withdraw from European soil.

• Canadian casualties at this battle were high, however. The Germans unleashed their first large-scale chemical attack, using 168 tons of chlorine gas. In a span of 48 hours, half of the 10,000 Canadians were injured and 1,000 were killed.
• A Third Battle of Ypres was fought at Passchendaele from July to November 1917. It ended in a stalemate, despite over 700,000 casualties.

• After the war, the town of Ypres was rebuilt. In 1927, the Menin Gate memorial was built to honour the tens of thousands of soldiers who were killed there and have no known graves. Since 1928, traffic has been halted each evening while the Last Post, a bugle call to honour the dead, is played beneath the memorial. (The ceremony was transferred to England during the German occupation of Ypres during the Second World War.)

• Today Ypres is known as a "city of peace," and has close ties to Hiroshima, Japan. The two cities commemorate some of the first uses of weapons of mass destruction: chemical and atomic warfare.

• For the first 2½ years of the war, the United States insisted upon remaining neutral and attempting to broker a peace deal. But unrestricted attacks on shipping by German U-boats led to a declaration of war by the U.S. on April 6, 1917. By the summer of 1918, 10,000 American troops were arriving in Europe daily. At the time, the U.S. accounted for 30 per cent of world manufacturing. It was never officially a member of the Allies, but called itself an "Associated Power."


The First World War: Canada Remembers more