Why is Ypres such a focal point for First World War remembrance?

The focus of this enquiry is twofold. Firstly on the strategic significance of the small Belgian city of Ypres during the First World War. Secondly on the area’s continuing significance in the years since as a focal point for First World War remembrance.

Stage 1

How is the First World War remembered in Ypres?

As well as this question students are asked to consider why the Last Post Ceremony is held in Ypres every evening and how is this similar to the two-minute silence on 11th November held in the UK every year? In what way is it unique? Why are there so many places that 'remember' the First World War in Ypres?

The Menin Gate in Ypres and the 'Last Post' ceremony

This resource provides students with background information about the Menin Gate and the Last post ceremony. It also links to how Remembrance Day is commemorated in Britain and the Commonwealth.

Stage 2

Why was the location of Ypres so important during the First World War?

Students are asked to consider why Ypres was so significant for both sides in the First World War.

The "Race to the Sea" during 1914

Maps and resources showing the strategic importance of Ypres during the First World War.

Stage 3

Why do we remember the fighting on the Ypres Salient?

The aim of this stage is to help the students appreciate why the battles of Ypres have been remembered, often ahead of many of the other battles of the First World War with the exception of the Battles of the Somme and Verdun.

Why do we remember the fighting on the Ypres Salient?

A student resource sheet containing a variety of sources to help gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the battles around Ypres.

Podcast of a gas attack at Ypres

The IWM podcast provides a first-hand account from those who experienced a gas attack at Ypres.

Stage 4

How did the appalling conditions at the Battle of Passchendaele affect people’s attitude towards the War? (continued)

This stage looks at how the fighting on the Ypres Salient – particularly at the 3rd Battle of Ypres (more usually known as the Battle of Passchendaele) – was beyond anything ever witnessed before.


The nature of warfare at Ypres Salient

This task sheet asks students why the conditions at Passchendaele were so terrible and how these along with the fact that the Battle ended in stalemate affected attitudes to the War at the time.

Stage 5

Why is Ypres such a focal point for First World War remembrance?

This stage returns to the overarching enquiry question which focuses on Ypres’ significance over time.

What happened to Ypres after the War?

Students are asked to consider:

  • why Ypres acquired an almost holy aura in the years immediately after the War
  • whether Churchill’s request that Ypres should be left as a ruin so future generations would remember was an appropriate legacy
  • why Ypres continues to be a focal point for remembrance today

More Resources »