Wipers Trip Report

The BMW Club Oxford Section Bank Holiday visit to Ypres

Friday 26th to Monday 29th May, 2017

With the 100th anniversary of the 1st World War this year it is very appropriate that the section has a visit to Ypres. 43 people and 29 assorted bikes met on Friday at the Albion Hotel in Ypres, which has an excellent location, minutes from the Grand Place and the Menin Gate.

This is what’s it all about:

Oxford Sevices Meet Up

A small contingent of hearty souls met up at Oxford Services at 7.30 and wound their way leisurely down to the Channel Tunnel. It was a bit warm but boded well for the weekend!

Others of the Ypres “team” started from their own convenient locations……

43 people and 29 assorted bikes met on Friday 26th at the Albion Hotel in Ypres, which has an excellent location, minutes from the Grand Place and the Menin Gate. After unpacking, a few made the journey to see the daily act of homage which was a very moving experience and very well attended.

Menin Gate

The following day saw 18 bikes meeting with Patrick and Nadine in the Grand Place. Patrick and his lovely wife had offered to be our local guides for the weekend and with Andy Lawson in charge had put together a full weekend of activities, routes and places to visit together with a very warm welcome.

The weather was absolutely amazing reaching 31 degrees Celsius all weekend; thank goodness we all packed some water….

Our first stop was the trenches of death http://www.visitflanders.com/en/things-to-do/attractions/top/trench-of-death-diksmuide.jsp. This was reached by an amazing set of small D roads providing an excellent riding experience.

Patrick had then organised a visit to the local bike museum, café and bikers haunt for lunch, and a guided tour around the museum by the owner himself, Johan Schaeverbeke. He has all kinds of trivial facts about Vespa and Lambretta, the English autocycles, the priest mopeds, or the tricycles from Poirier; a very impressive collection of motorcycles and worth a visit if only for the humour of the owner! https://sites.google.com/grd.be/eng/museum

The museum holds a collection of about 100 motorcycles, scooters and mopeds from the period 1914~1980, packed with lots of decorations and utensils from the “good old days”. Beside the well-known Belgian trademarks such as FN, Flandria, Gillet, you will find extra-ordinary bikes like La Mondiale built in Vilvoorde (B), the Praga BD 500cc (CZ), the Gnom (D) and American Whizzers…

In the Bike Museum

On the return to our hotel, we stopped off to see the Black Watch memorial at Black Watch corner, one of the many memorials in the area.

We met Patrick and Nadine as was normal at 9.30 in Ypres Grande Plass and rode in convoy to the Essex Farm Cemetery. This was an advanced first aid post and gave an amazing insight into the life and times of the medical cops who were supporting the troops behind the front line: http://www.wo1.be/en/db-items/essex-farm-cemetery

The site of the largest of the 19 mine explosions detonated to signal the start of the Messines phase of Third Ypres, the ‘Pool of Peace’ – Spanbroekmolen – was formed by a 91,000lb ammonal explosion set off at 0310 on 7 June 1917 underneath one of the then highest German front-line positions on Messines Ridge.

Work began on laying the mine in December 1916 and continued right up until a few hours before the mine was detonated, when the actual charge was placed and primed.

A reflective moment at the Pool of Peace

In February 1917, German countermining had damaged the main tunnel and much work had to be done to drive forward a new tunnel.

The Messines offensive was preceded by a seven-day offensive bombardment.

Nine divisions of infantry advanced upon a 9-mile front.  All 19 mines were blown at 0310.  The Spanbroekmolen mine went up 15 seconds late, killing infantry who had already begun to advance and who had been instructed to advance whether the mine exploded or not.

The sound of the 19 mine explosions was apparently heard as far away as Dublin, and in Downing Street itself.  It was considered the loudest man made sound until that point.

The attack was a huge success, leaving the opposing German forces stunned by the nature and force of the offensive.  The Allies made significant gains during that first day. http://www.firstworldwar.com/today/poolofpeace.htm

We then travelled a few kilometres to a farm where a BBQ had been organised by Patrick, Nadine and a few of their friends. We were made very welcome and the food was excellent.

Our final destination was the beautiful Passchendaele Museum. It was at this location in 1917 where more than 400,000 soldiers perished for a territorial gain of only a few kilometres. The museum goes down more that 10 m so that you can experience the dugout complexes that both sides constructed and also the trench warfare system.

Our final evening was completed with an excellent evening meal and another visit to the daily act of homage, this time assisted by the Pipers and Bands of the Canadian Transport System. This really is a world-wide phenomenum.

Final Evening

Our thanks must go to Rosemary and David Hicks who organised the trip, to Andy Lawson who organised the day trips with our local friends and of course to Patrick and Nadine who really made the weekend work very well. They are happy to be contacted if you need any help in the Ypres area: –

Patrick Desmidt & Nadine Warlop…….startroopy@gmail.com

The final day we said our goodbyes and made our way home through an exceptionally well organised Channel Tunnel, a first for me! We were met at the tunnel exit by some showery rain that chased us all the way back to our respective homes.


Originally posted 2017-07-06 21:27:09.


Author: bobmack70