After the cessation of the First World War, a group of Flemish front soldiers continued to feel dissatisfied about the way they had been treated at the front. This dissatisfaction resulted in a first Yser pilgrimage in 1920, and in the so-called Yser testament, or a bundling of the recurring aspirations of No-more-war, God's Peace and Self-government, today translated into Peace, Freedom and Tolerance.
As a symbol thereof the first Yser Tower was built in 1928. It was inaugurated on 24th August 1930. The first Yser Tower was a 164 feet high copy of a Hero's Tribute Headstone, designed by Joe English, which pro-Flemish soldiers placed on the graves of their fallen comrades during WWI.
In the night of 15th to 16th March the Tower was completely destroyed. Some Flemish front soldiers and an Walloon soldier are buried in the crypte.
Furthermore, the following were placed in the crypt:
- Stone of Merkem: an old village pump from the destroyed village Merkem, a village at the front near Diksmuide, with the motto 'Here our blood, when our right' which expresses the dissatisfaction of the soldiers at the front.
- Nele bell: the original bell of the first Yser Tower which cracked because of the tower's destruction with dynamite.
Authentic tombstone of front soldier Joe English.