De IJzer, onze laatste hoop, Tenir Dixmude, Nach Calais

The battles around Diksmuide in October 1914 caused a radical change during WWI. The war of movement had ended and the front deadlocked. This exhibition gives a perfect overview of the run-up to the Battle of the Yser, and of the conditions under which the battle took place as well as of the consequences thereof for the remainder of the war.
From 10 October 2014 to 11 November 2018.

Winter 1914-1915 - Behind the Yser

The exhausted Belgian army entrenches behind the river. They are cut off from all necessary raw materials in the occupied land and now try to stock up with the Allies. During these months, the soldiers kept their old uniforms or selected pieces from surplus uniforms from the depots. Nevertheless, the central clothing warehouse in Antwerp provided new parts of uniforms, such as simplified caps and coats, already during the journey back. This peculiar diversity of clothing can be frequently seen on pictures of this brief period.

Spring 1915 - The new khaki uniform.

With summer soon to arrive, new khaki-coloured cotton uniforms were handed out, with a British model cap, but also with a Belgian tricolour cockade and a cartridge bag of the ‘Gomez’ type made in Argentina. The ‘seniors’ at the front were surprised. This one is still equipped with the transition uniform and the Yser cap, the short blue jacket and the French-made outfit adapted to the Belgian soldier.

Winter 1915-1916 - Aid station in the second line at Lettenburg

A clergyman, working as a stretcher-bearer, exits the cellar of this farm that has been converted into an aid station. An injured soldier is transported to a hospital that lies behind it.

Autumn 1916 telephony post in a shelter

Observation and communication were becoming increasingly important in this trench war. When the opportunity arises, the soldier takes off his helmet and replaces it with a new police cap. This cap is typical of the new silhouette of the ‘Jass’*. It replaced the cap, which had become completely deformed by life at the front.

*Nickname for Belgian soldiers, such as ‘poilu’ for the French and ‘tommy’ for the Brits.

Winter 1916-1917 A first line defence post

Along the railway track side from Diksmuide to Nieuwpoort, the soldiers created a series of small brick post for sheltering. They try to adapt to the harsh climate. Although the bank artificially protected them against the water of the flooded area, constant attention remained of crucial importance. The watcher, equipped with a helmet and ‘Farina’ type cuirass (the Belgian army bought 50 of the 700 items made for the Italian army) investigates the front line, where the enemy is constantly trying to capture the outpost, using the water that has turned to ice.