dinsdag 11 februari 2014

Tyne Cot: the biggest CWGC cemetery

Tyne Cot is the name of the biggest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery (CWGC) in Europe:with 12,000 graves – may known unto God – and the names of another 35,000 “missed in action”. The names of those who died in the Ypres Salient (Flanders Fields) after August 15, 1917 are commemorated here. The soldiers who died in this salient before that date, are commemorated at the Menin Gate, Ypres (Ieper).
Before the war, the Tyne Cot area was known as the 'rozenveld - field of roses' (i.e. poppies). For the soldiers of the Northumberland Regiment who served here, the area remembered them of the cottages near the river Tyne.

When WW1 started, every side taught that it would end after a short campaign of about 40 days.
The reality was different.  After the battle of the Somme (1916) it became clear that never ever the logistics could be developed to bring the killed soldiers back to their homeland.

The Ieper (Ypres) Salient was the scene for 3 major battles:

Ypres I (Oct. 19th - Nov. 22nd, 1914)
was a very dramatic moment in WW1: the last 'gap' in the 460km (286mi) long front from the French/German border (close to Metz/Nancy) to the Belgian Northsea Coast was closed - this implied that the war went from dynamic to static --> 'in trenches'.  In remained like that for more than 4 years.

Ypres II (Apr. 22nd - May 25th, 1915)
At that point in time, the Canadians entered the war. Most of them were engineers, who had to build bridges over the river Ijzer (= the frontline). 
On April 22nd the Germans used, for the 1st time ever, chloric gas (6,000 canisters !). Therefore, Ypres II is the beginning of chemical warfare worldwide.
The Canadian physician Dr. John Mc Crae (known from the immortal poem 'In Flanders Fields) had his surgery quarters very near the point in the frontline where the gas was first used.

Ypres III (July 31st - Nov. 11th, 1917)
This was the largest massacre of all, costing nearly 500,000 casualties for an advance of 9km (5,6mi) from Messines and Ypres to the Passchendale ridge. On Apr. 13th, 1918 the Germans reconquered the ridge until Sept 28th, 1918, when the Belgian Army  captured the ridge in the final push during the last weeks of the war.
On Tyne Cot, situated on the Passchendale ridge, 2 German bunkers and 1 'Blockhaus' make the conditions the soldiers where up against very visible.

The defence line that the Germans constructed around Zonnebeke-Passendale (1916) was called Flandern I Stellung. It was a network of concrete bunkers, that the British called “pill-boxes’.  At some critical spots, the distance between the bunkers was only 150 yrds. The defence was secured by just a few man and a machine gun. When attacked, the system responded with a continuous wall of fire.

Only 4% of the Belgian territory (20km wide) was unoccupied during WW1.  Ieper (Ypres) was the center of this area, through which passed 5,000,000 soldiers of the British Empire during this war.

In this area, you will discover many names of English, Canadian, Australian, Indian, New-Zealand young men, all serving under the British Empire.

Soldiers buried on Tyne Cot by country:
UK                     8,962
Canada             1,011
Australia            1,369. On Tyne Cot all New-Zealanders 'missed in action' are remembered in a special apsis, which is a part of the 'Tyne Cot Memorial of the Missing'.  
New Zealand        520
South Africa           90
Germany                  4

Total Burials:  11,956

There are no Belgian soldiers buried on Tyne Cot (their sector was more to the N., in the direction of the Northsea).

During the Passchendale battle, in total 65 Victorian Crosses (V.C.'s) were awarded. 3 VC's are buried on Tyne Cot: 
·         Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries, VC, of the 34th Battalion Australian Infantry, killed in action on 12/10/1917, Plot XL. E 1. 
·         Sergeant Lewis McGee, VC, 40th Battalion Australian Infantry, killed in action 12/10/1917,  Plot XX. D 1.
·         Private James Peter Robertson, VC, 27th (Manitoba) Battalion Canadian Infantry, killed in action 06/11/1917,  Plot LVIII.  D. 26. 

4 Types of graves were used during WW1 
  • Field grave (Geländegraber): reversed gun with helmet of the victim on top. The place of the grave was marked. Most of these graves got lost during later artillerie duels.
  • Battlefield graves: on the battlefield itself, mostly around an aid or hospital post. These are small grave yards where the commemoration stones are placed in an irregular order.
  • War cemeteries, where victims were buried per regiment or per group of regiments.--> Grave yards in the neighbourhood of major hospitals.
  • Concentration cemeteries, of which Tyne Cot is the biggest.
The start of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission 
When Fabian Ware (Commander of mobile unit A of the Red Cross and former journalist of ‘The Morning Post’) arrived on the Ypres front in Oct. 1914, he noticed that there was no registration system for the many war graves on the front. So he made lists with the coordinates of the graves. In March 1915 his work was recognized and the Graves Registration Commission was installed. In 1916 the Commission became the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries and Lt. Col. Ware was the chief of 700 registration soldiers.

Art. 225 of the Versailles peace treaty stipulated that the graves of all parties had to be respected, but only the allies were allowed to search, identify and register the death. First there was a long discussion if the dead soldiers should be returned home or if they should be burried in the region where they got killed.

After the demobilisation, there were only 700 man left to do the job (identification and registration of the tens of thousands death in de region) while it was estimated that about 15,000 persons were needed to finish the registration.  So in 1919 8,600 men were recruted. By september 1921 they had reburied 200,000 soldiers. The recruits got the help of labour companies (Chinese and German POW’s)

The quest for buried soldiers was done systematically. On the basis of former ‘burial sheets’
a piece of land of about 75*75 ft  (23 m à 500m²) was marked by means of flags. The exhumation companies were divided in squads of 32 persons. Usually the work was organized in groups of 4.
Standard equipment was: 2 pair of rubber gloves, 2 shovels, a pair of barb wire nippers, a set of markers and lots of canvas and rope to put the bodies in.  A strong indication that a body was buried somewhere, where the nearby ratholes.

In spite of the searches, bodies where discovered continiously until the beginning of WW II.

Why go to Brussels ?

Flower Carpet, Grand Place
Why go to Brussels ? OK, there is that endless variety of chocolaytes, the spectacular Grand Place, the Art-Nouveau buildings, the EU-Institutions and the many historical sites like the Waterloo battlefield (2015 is the celebration of 200 years Waterloo !).

Unlike her louder, more flamboyant sister European cities, Brussels is somewhat reserved. Many pittoresque streets and corners wait patiently for your eyes to catch them. Then, the city romances you with her rich history, beautiful culture, gourmet cuisine and distinctive attractions.

Check  out this link: BRUSSELS WALKS

A new  Fin-de-Siècle Museum (End-of-the-Century musuem) opened its doors on December 6th, 2013 in Brussels, Regentschapsstraat 3. The museum exhibits Belgian art from the end of the 19th C. to the early 20th C. The new museum was given shelter at the Museum of Modern Art  (which had not been renovated since 1989).
According to the press release, the new museum should generate - more than ever -  international response. 

On an area of ​​over 6,000 sq.m (m²), visitors can admire art works, which were made between 1863 and 1914. Among them: paintings of Maurice Maeterlinck, Emile Verhaeren, James Ensor, Ferdinand Khnopff, Spilliaert and Octave Maus. The new museum presents Brussels as "a unique European artistic hub at the turn of the century."

4 years after the opening of the Magritte Museum - the first step in the reorganization of the collections of federal Belgium - the Fine Arts museum completes a second stage in that process.
The federal government has invested nearly 6.5 million € in this project.
The Fin-de-Siècle museum also received a donation of 1 million € from the Gillion - Crowet[1] family, whose collection will be exhibited.

Museum voor Moderne Kunst (KMSKB) – Fine Arts Museum
Regentschapsstraat 3, 1000 Brussels

Reservations: +32 (0)2/5083333  Contact: info@fine-arts-museum.be +32 (0)2/5083211

[1] Gillon-Crowet is linked to the princes of de Merode. Their Castle is in Solre-s.-Sambre, Wallonia

maandag 10 februari 2014


Google teams up with hundreds of museums and cultural institutions, to make their archives available on-line. End of last year, the Google Cultural Institute was linked to 400 museums in 50 countries worldwide
è Google Cultural Institute on youtube Google Cultural Institute 

Very recently Google opened a new lab in its Paris based HQ. The idea is to help artists and museums to digitize their art. Laurent Gaveau, previously 5 years responsible for all digital and multimedia plans at the Palace of Versailles, had the ideal profile for this job. Amongst other things, he made Versailles virtually accessible, using Google’s  streetview technology.

On a giant interactive screen - one of the largest in the world - small paintings are projected meters wide and extremely sharp. A tablet lets you zoom in and out, so that you can watch every corner of a painting in detail.
How it works (without a tablet), is shown on this website about the ‘Mystic Lamb’ by Van Eyck:

Gaveau is clear: the more paintings and buildings are  made available online, the more active you get on social media and the more people feel the need for the real experience, instead of the virtual impression.
Virtuality complements and deepens the confrontation with reality. The Cultural Institute and the Lab - which has a staff of 20 engineers – must live up to this ambition.

Since 2 years now,  series of paintings by e.g. Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Botticelli are captured  to the smallest detail with gigapixel cameras and can be viewed online.

The lab also features a device to create 3D images of art objects and a 3D printer plus laser cutter.
Fort he moment, this million € project, is in a prototype stage.
Young artists are regularly invited to the lab to come and work for several months.

The question remains why Google is doing this? The company has no ‘stainless’ reputation in the field of privacy and copyright. And ultimately wants Google to make money…
Yet Gaveau stresses that there is no commercial purpose. There is no advertising associated with the artworks, and the project  has no other revenue streams.

Because the goal is clear - art digital access - the number of partnerships between Google and top museums continues to grow.

Address: Google Cultural Institute, rue de Londres 8, 75009 Paris
+ 33 (0)1 42 68 53 00

IN FIGURES (dec. 2013)

partners collaborate with the Cultural Institute
art works are on-line on the website of the Art Project
paintings can be view in extra high resolution
is the number of museums where you can take a virtual tour, based on streetview technology.
Internauts already created their personal art gallery on Google.
minute on average is the time that surfers spend watching a painting on-line (vs 20 seconds averagely when visiting a museum)  

zondag 25 augustus 2013

The West part of Flanders is more than war history

As we told already.  Next year (2014) is the commemoration of 100 years World War 1. But 'Bachten de Kupe', i.e. the 4% of Belgian territory that where unoccupied during WW1, has a lot more to offer.
Look at a few of the discoveries you can make, here on the French-Belgian borderline, where life is quiet and rural gastronomy has a special meaning.
Map of the area

Grotere kaart weergeven
Link to powerpoint

What tablet for whom ?

In the tour- and guiding world, you see tablets everywhere. Of course, they are easy to take with you, they are easy to take with you and they start up a lot faster than most p.c.’s. Ideally, you should be able to pick a tablet that combines outstanding technical performance with the apps and the cloud connections of your choice.

Unfortunately, such machine does not exist ?  A specific brand is inevitably linked with specific apps and cloud. So your options are restricted.  Which is the best choice.

We wouldn’t know. But the following check-list may help you on your way.

Schermgrootte ? Schermresolutie ? Reactie leesbaarheid scherm bij wisselend daglicht ?
Screen size ? Screen resolution ? How does the screen react in different daylight situations ?
Opstartsnelheid ? Start up speed ?
Gevoeligheid virtueel toetsenbord ?  Sensitivity of the virtual keyboard ?
Voor geïnstalleerde apps ? Overzichtelijke indeling beschikbare apps ?
Usability pre-installed apps ?  Are the apps divided into clear categories ?
Multitasking mogelijk ? Multitastking possible ?
Compatibel met uw email- en agenda systeem ? Is the system compatible with your email and agenda system ?
Compatibel met google maps ? Compatibility with google maps ?
Welke e-book formats  zijn beschikbaar, bijv. .pdf, epub, ibooks (apple), azw.kf8 (amazon), .lit (microsoft reader), .txt ? What e-book formats are available ?
GPS ingebouwd ?  GPS included ?
Geheugenopslag capaciteit ?   Memory storage capacity ?
SD kaart (geheugenuitbreiding) ?  SD card (memory extension possible ?
Wifi 802.11 a/B/b/n ? Bluetooth ? ingebouwd  Wifi standard(s) available ?  Bluetooth ?
SIM-kaartlezer ingebouwd  (G3 , G4?)  SIM card reader available  ?   G4 ready ?
micro/webcam (hoeveel megapixels) ingebouwd ? Kwaliteit geluidsweergave ? Micro and webcam available ?  Sound and image quality adequate in normal daylight circumstances ?
Usb en andere aansluitingen ? (usb 2 of usb 3 ?)  USB 3 available ?
HDMI/XVGA out ? (beamers)
Stylus beschikbaar (om zelf schetsen/notities op uw tablet te schrijven) ?
Stylus available ?

Back Again

For two years now, it has been very quiet on this blog. Reason: both of us were too busy organizing and touring.
The maps, documents and media about the tours we do are re-organized now, so we can communicate again on a structural and regular basis. So far, we mainly communicated in Dutch, but since 80% of our clients are English natives, our future blog info will be principally in English (and Dutch).

So what is the main focus for tourism next year in Belgium ?
2014,  100 years first world war (WW1) will be commemorated everywhere in the north of Belguim and northern France, because that is where the front line was all of the 4 miserable years between 1914-’18.
WW1 is NOT a battlefield only story. How did civilians live through these years ? what did they drink ? How did the soldiers eat and drink ? How was social life organized ? Who financed the war efforts ? Which effects of WW1 are still visible along the frontline today ?
All these stories – and many others – are told during a variety of tours along the frontlines in Belgium and France.

In political perspective, WW1 was (almost) unavoidable.
With the industrial revolution at ‘cruise speed’, every European country was looking for new markets abroad to sell its mass produced goods at the beginning of the 20th C.  Labels like ‘made in the UK’, ‘made in Germany’ etc… were important and nationalism a virtue. Other nations were considered competitors. Consensus or concertation between (neighbouring) countries was non-existing and thus the murder on the Crown Prince of Austria Hungaria on the 28th of June 1914, was the spark that set off WW1.
The only reason that it stopped four years later was complete exhaustion from all sides involved…

More about WW1
Contact  bob.beelen@gmail.com if you have any specific question concerning tours or trips in the area in 2014.

In 2015, war is again the leading theme, because June 18th, 1815 was the Battle of Waterloo that shifted the balance of powers in Europe.

dinsdag 2 augustus 2011


Cantharellen zijn in Belgische bossen (bijna). In Duitsland, waar ze er verzot op zijn, kun je bij Aldi en consoorten verse Pfifferlingen kopen voor ca. 3€ voor 400 gr. Allemaal afkomstig uit Witruslandse bossen, want kweken kan je ze niet.
Je kunt ze vers eten, maar ook drogen om er jaren later nog plezier van te hebben!

Meer weten ? Klik eens door op wikipedia http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfifferling