Of course we don’t remember, its one of the things people say, “We shall remember them.” but we no longer do. It along with Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is one of the great myths of the Great War, we say it because it makes us feel smug. The reality is the dead are dead, they no longer care what you think or say. We say these things for the living, Don’t speak ill of the dead. Not quite the end of the rant the next one is, The Forgotten….., insert hour, day, week, month, year, person, persons, people, or war here. By definition if it’s forgotten you are never ever going to read about it.. Least known would be better, my vote would go to the British Empire’s use of female labourers in East Africa during the Great War.
Hooge now. Not far from Hill 62, on the Menin Road. A few hundred yards up from the Hooge Crater Museum. Not visited as often as it could be. A much better and cheaper place to see trenches than Sanctuary Wood (Hill 62) Not far from these trenches two British Generals were killed in action, the Germans first use of flamethrowers on British troops occurred. The first trial by British soldiers of “Tin Helmets” was here. For those interested the dyes for the Brodie helmet from the Great war my still survive in Israel. Also used here for the first time by the British Army in the Great War was the portable radio. Just think your mobile phone had its British Military origins here. Of course back then you need a horse and cart.
Back in 1914 the Menin Road was timber tracked, not a lot of people remember that. Anyway
On the 19 July 1915 a mine was exploded under the Germans at Hooge and the crater were occupied by two companies of the 4th Bn Middlesex Regiment driving the enemy back some 300 yards, The crater was roughly were the on the 22nd, two more attempts were made to capture some parts of the line here. then there was a pause until 3:15 a.m. on the 30 July, the Germans blew up the ruins of the Chateau, this is the place, but not the time the two Generals were killed. Men of the 7th Kings Royal Rifles (KRR) first felt a fine mist of something that smelt like paraffin. Men carrying something heavy on their backs, crouched down holding what looked liked hose pipe nozzles were trudging towards them. Few would survive to recollect the sight, or the smell of their uniforms as they were blinded scorched and incinerated by the new German flamethrowers. Those near would never forget. The Germans captured the KRR positions. A counter attack in the afternoon was only partially successful. It was near here, roughly from the trenches to the end of Hooge Crater Cemetery that 2nd Lt Sydney Woodroffe was awarded the new armies first VC also on the 30th July 1915 leading a counter attack. Woodroffe has another distinction, this one is unique. He, along with others has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin gate, sadly nothing even for VC holders unique in that. What is unique is that when the panels were first carved they carved “VC” before, not after his name.
So what can you see at Hooge today? The trenches are the main attraction, unlike the recreated trenches at Sanctuary Wood these are more original. Other over grown trenches still exist in the area notably at Hill 60, but these have a better feel and the right “look”. It is still possible to go inside one of the bunkers. The craters are still there, best not to go swimming in them, long filled with water. Bits of ordinance, all now safe are in piles about the place. Most collected from fields nearby. it looks like what it is. It is a Great War battle site left for a 100 years. Not far from Ypres, walking distance from Hooge Crater Cemetery. The Hooge Crater Museum, the KRR memorial. From here the site of the Battle of Ballewaarde 1915 and Birr Cross Roads Cemetery are all easy walking. Good food is also available both here at the tearooms, and at Hooge Crater Museum.