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Trench of Death in Diksmuide

Trench of Death in Diksmuide

Trench of Death

The Trench of Death on the Yser Front in Dixmuide is the only preserved Belgian trench complex from the First World War.

After the Battle of the Yser, which took place in October 1914, the artificial Yser inundations prevented a further German breaktrough. As a result, the conflict turned into a war of positions. While the German army took up post on the banks of the flooded Yser, the Belgians entrenched themselves behind the railway embankment between Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide. The belgian and German forces were separated by the flooded Yser and impenetrable swamps.

Petroleum tanks

To keep an eye on the enemy, soldiers captured church towers and factory chimneys. Near the Yser, the Germans set up two petroleum tanks as observation posts. The Belgian army tried to capture both tanks in May 1915, but failed. That is why the Belgians started to build a network of trenches towards the Petroleum Tanks, an extension straight to the German positions.

The 350 meter long connecting trench parallel to the bank of the Yser quickly acquired the dutch nickname 'Dodengang', or 'trench of death'. The works resulted in countless casualties who were fired upon by snipers on top of the petroleum tanks and from German bunkers. Despite the dangerous work, the trenches became broader and more profound; the walls were reinforced with sandbags, and shelters were built.

Once the Trench of Death was completed, both armies gave up trying to gain ground at this location, relative peace descended in the vicinity of the Trench of Death. Yet bombings and attacks with the dreaded poison gas remained commonplace. It was not until November 11, 1918, that the nightmare of the First World War ended with the Armistice.

German bunker

Northwest of the trench system is another collapsed German bunker. From this position, German soldiers fired on the Belgian positions.

Since the Germans were only a few meters from the trenches, things were often intense here. To keep the Germans at bay, a dike breach was constructed in 1915 to defend the Belgian positions.

That breach was filled again after the war. Conservation work has also been carried out several times in the Trench of Death itself over the years. The barbed wire barriers have disappeared, while cement bags have replaced the sandbags. The bottom consisted of wooden planks, now you walk on concrete floors.

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