The tiny western Belgian village of Passchendaele, site of one of the most controversial battles of World War One - the Third Battle of Ypres, which resulted in the loss of 500,000 Allied servicemen in little more than three months - has become synonymous with warfare's brutality and senselessness.
The purpose of the Passchendaele Memorial Museum at Zonnebeke, Passchendaele's neighbouring village, is to allow visitors to see and learn for themselves the history, human cost and consequences of the misguided conflict that raged around these villages between July and November 1917.
For anyone with an interest in the history of the Great War, the Passchendaele Memorial Museum is an excellent starting point for any tour of the battlefields of Flanders and the Somme, just over Belgium's border with France. Housed within Zonnebeke's old Chateau, the museum features both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Besides housing the largest public collection of WWI memorabilia and artefacts in the West Flanders region of Belgium, a series of life-sized dioramas takes visitors on a fascinating chronological journey through the Third Battle of Ypres.
An authentically reconstructed trench then leads visitors into a subterranean dugout in which realistic living quarters and operational rooms have been created, with period photographs, film footage and artefacts helping to evoke the atmosphere of life on the wartime frontlines.
Set in extensive grounds and gardens, the Passchendaele Memorial Museum opened a number of new exhibits to visitors in July 2013. A new wing of the Chateau is dedicated entirely to recounting The Battle of Passchendaele, one of the fiercest conflicts of the Third Battle of Ypres. A 'Remembrance' gallery has been added as well as a gallery which details the contributions made by the armies of different nations to the Allied war effort.
Outside in the Chateau's grounds a network of trenches has been dug, realistically recreating the living and fighting conditions of both Allied and German soldiers serving on the Western Front during the First World War.
Situated just three kilometres from the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the world's largest British and Commonwealth war cemetery and memorial site, visiting the Passchendaele Memorial Museum provides a fascinating, educational and poignant insight into the world and lives of ordinary soldiers fighting in extraordinary circumstances and establishes the context for greater understanding of the battlefield sites and memorials of Flanders and the Somme.