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The Yorkshire Trench, Boezinge


The Yorkshire Trench is located near the village of Boezinge (modern spelling, previously Boesinghe). However, it is not actually within the village, which lies to the left or west of the main road from Ypres, the N369, as you travel north. Instead, to reach the site, turn right off the N369 (sign posted Pilkem) and just before a Peugeot garage take another right heading back south along the other side of the canal. This runs by the edge of a large new industrial estate to your left.

The Yorkshire trench is sign posted on a road leading into the industrial estate to the left, but the signpost is rater small and easily missed. Also sign posted on the same turn is Westcompost, an easier sign to see. The road bends to the left, and the Yorkshire Trench site is then around 100 yards further down the road on the left.There is no charge for entry to the site.

An information board at the Yorkshire Trench site
An information board at the Yorkshire Trench site

There is an information board at the entrance to the site, which shows the layout of the trenches that were excavated. Trenches from 1915 and from 1917 were excavated. The work was undertaken by a group of amateur Belgian archaeologists, known as The Diggers. The excavations were filmed in part by BBC TV for the "Meet the Ancestors" series. The programme, transmitted first in March 2002 was called "The Forgotten Battlefield". The position of the Yorkshire trench can be seen on British trench maps from September 1916, but the name "Yorkshire Trench" was not used until early the following year. A British dugout from 1917 was explored by the Diggers as early as 1992, but the majority of the work on the Yorkshire Trench site took place in the summer of 1998 and in April 2000.

View of the reconstructed 1917 trench from above
View of the reconstructed 1917 trench from above

The position of the 1915 trench is shown at ground level by a wooden slatted path, but the 1917 section has been recreated. The 1915 trench location was around two yards behind that of 1917. An excellent addition to the sites available on the Ypres salient; there are not too many sites with preserved or recreated trenches, and this one based on the careful excavation of a site threatened with destruction, and the eventual saving of at least a portion of it for public view is laudable.

A reconstructed section of A frames and duckboards
A reconstructed section of A frames and duckboards

There are several information boards placed at various points around the site, and there is a reconstruction of the A-frame and duckboard construction used to provide the base of the trenches, and of use in raising the bottom level of the trench where standing water was an issue (as in the Ypres Salient). Some of the A-Frames excavated are now in the "In Flanders Field" museum in Ypres. Other information boards have photographs from the actual excavation, plus historical pictures from the war and more information.

View within the reconstructed 1917 trench
View within the reconstructed 1917 trench

The site itself is actually quite small, but the trench system obviously extended beyond this, and in fact more of the site was excavated. The 1917 trench is surprisingly narrow, and even somewhat claustrophobic. The entrances to the dug-outs can be seen leading off it, but covered by wire and when I visited on a cold March day, were flooded. Apparently they were flooded even in August. Within the trench are recreated firesteps, complete with loopholes, in one case steel and in another an oblong aperture constructed by placing sandbags above and either side to leave a gap from which to observe and fire from.

A view of one of the loopholes in the 1917 trench
A view of one of the loopholes in the 1917 trench

The view from the loophole
The view from the loophole

I noticed that some of the concreted surfaces of the sandbags are already peeling, and I expect this is just part of the weathering process. Note that some of the artefacts recovered from the Yorkshire trench site are now at Varlet Farm.

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