Zonnebeke, situated near the French border, north of Menen and east of Ypres, in West Flandes and consists of five villages: Beselare, Geluveld, Zandvoorde, Passendaele and Zonnebeke. It has 11,758 inhabitants (as at 1st January 2013) and an area of 67.57 square kilometers.
The First World War (WWI) disturbed what had traditionally been a very peaceful village. This war which was to end all wars, moved on so slowly that the advance was measured in metres rather than kilometres, having a profound impact on the local region.
Thousands of young men from all over the world gave their lives in the village. The countless graves and numerous monuments and memorials all over the area speak for themselves. ‘Passchendaele 1917’ has became a byword to symbolise violence in its most brutal and senseless form.
The area was completely destroyed during the war and after it ended was slowly rebuilt. The church was built on the ruins of the old abbey church and is one of the first modern churches in Belgium. Close to the church the municipality erected a monument to commemorate civilians and soldiers of Zonnebeke who were killed during WWI and WWII.
Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
The Memorial Museum Passendale 1917 (MMP17) opened on Anzac Day 2004 in the grounds of Zonnebeke Chateau, ninety years after the beginning of the ‘Great War’. The memory of the Battle of Passchendaele is kept alive in the Museum through images and movies, a large collection of historical artefacts and several life-like-diorama\'s. Included in the MMP17\'s facilities is an underground dugout tunnel with communication and dressing post, headquarters, workplaces and dormitories. The museum is on the road to Tyne Cot Cemetery (see below).
Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele
Tyne Cot (or Tyne Cottage) was the name given by the army to a barn which stood west of the Passchendaele-Broodseinde road. The barn became the centre of five German blockhouses and was captured by the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) 2nd Division on 4 October 1917. One of the blockhouses was then used as an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS). From 6 October 1917 until the end of the war, 343 graves were dug on either side of the ADS. After the Armistice, the cemetery was enlarged until it held 11,956 graves, the largest British cemetery, and covered 35,103 square meters. The unnamed graves number 8366. There are 1368 Australian graves, the majority being unidentified. A special memorial records the names of fifteen other Australians known or believed to be buried within the cemetery. Of particular interest to Australians is the Cross of Sacrifice which, at the suggestion of King George V, was built over one of the blockhouses. It is one of several captured by the AIF 2nd Division, on this occasion the 5th brigade. A plaque commemorates it. A small part of the original blockhouse is visible through a \'window\' in the gleaming white concrete which forms the base for the cross.
Two Australian Victoria Cross (VC) winners are buried in Tyne Cot cemetery: Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries of the 34th Battalion (Grave XL.E. 1) and Sergeant Lewis McGee of the 40th Battalion (Grave XX.D.I). Sergeant Lewis McGee showed great courage and exemplary leadership in the Passchendaele fighting of October 1917. Killed in action at Broodseinde, Sergeant Lewis McGee is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery not far from Captain Jeffries VC.
Tyne Cot is a magnificent garden cemetery and a blaze of colour during the growing seasons. The view ups the slope from the rich-gate, through the headstones, garden and lawns to the Great Cross and the Memorial to the Missing, is profoundly moving. All major memorial ceremonies are held in Tyne Cot cemetery. Note the two large blockhouses towards the front of the cemetery which were both were captured by the AIF\'s 3rd Division. On top of the largest pillbox is the cross of Sacrifice which bears the inscription: THIS WAS THE TYNE COT BLOCKHOUSE CAPTURED BY THE 3RD AUSTRALIAN DIVISION 4 OCTOBER 1917
Tyne Cot cemetery is one of the War cemeteries in Greater Ypres maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is also on the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium and more information about the cemetery can be found on the Australians on the Western Front 1914-1918 website. The Remembrance Trail website contains interactive maps of the 1917 battles in Belgium, photographs, films and panoramas. It also has three distinct stories about Australian experiences of Ypres, Zonnebeke and Ploegsteert Wood during World War One.