With Such Memorials We Will Never Forget
By Stewart Creasey
23 April 2014
With the centenary of World War One, Great Rail Journeys bring you a moving series of trips to the battlefields and graves of Northern France and Belgium.Read more
Situated on Belgium's western border with France, the pretty town of Poperinge lies at the heart of Belgium's hop-growing region of West Flanders, which supplies up to eighty percent of the hops used in the brewing of Belgium's famous beers.
Poperinge's habitation pre-dates the Roman Era, but it was only in the twelfth century that the settlement was granted an official town charter. Initially prosperous as a cloth-manufacturing town a series of wars which saw Poperinge repeatedly ransacked and burned between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries prompting the town to switch to the cultivation of hops for its income.
In the First World War, Poperinge was one of only two Belgian towns to escape German occupation. Close to the battle front line it became a safe haven for Allied soldiers, a base for field hospitals and convalescence stations and an important distribution centre for military supplies thanks to its road and rail links.
Today Poperinge is a charming and convenient base for exploring the First World War battlefields of nearby Ypres, but the town has many significant attractions for visitors in its own right, and despite long-range bombing by German artillery many of Poperinge's historic buildings remain intact and fascinating to explore.
A short rail journey to Lille takes us close to the Battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, two of the most infamous and iconic sites of the First World War. We also explore the fascinating city of Lille on a guided tour which includes a traditional beer and waffle tasting.… see more
5 days from £585 ppView tour details >
Now operating as a guest house, in 1915 the British Army chaplain Philip "Tubby" Clayton rented this family home and converted it into a club for soldiers of all ranks, where they could relax away from the horrors of the front line. The adjacent warehouse was bought and converted into a concert hall for the troops in 1917, and now houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Great War.
Poperinge's town hall, in the central Grote Markt square, contains a poignant reminder of the brutality of the First World War. Cowardice and desertion from the British Army were offences punishable by death, and two cells used for detaining prisoners for execution have been preserved in the Stadhuis. Outside in the courtyard one of the poles remains to which condemned soldiers were bound prior to execution by firing squad at dawn.
Poperinge is known as Belgium's 'hop capital' and the town's Hopmuseum celebrates this status over four fascinating floors. Visitors can learn about the four seasons of the hop discover the history and culture of Belgian brewing. Exhibits include historic documents, photographs, scale models, audiovisual displays and the impressive 'Belgian Beer Wall' which comprises 14,000 bottles. Naturally, a tasting session is available.