Feature Articles - The Passchendaele Archives
Did your granddad fight in Passchendaele? Did he give his life?
The Third battle of Ypres, known forever as Passchendaele 1917, was one of the great conflicts of the First World War. A hundred days of heavy fighting resulted in over half a million Allied casualties for but a gain of only a few miles.
The dead comprised mainly British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South African troops and on the great memorial wall at Tyne Cot Cemetery are inscribed the names of 35,000 British and New Zealand dead who fell at Passchendaele.
Many of the Missing are buried in military cemeteries about the Ypres Salient as "A Soldier of the Great War" and "Known unto God", but most lie still undiscovered in Flanders Fields. A visit to a military cemetery is always an inspiring and emotional experience but the fact remains that the Missing have only headstones and memorials whereon they are remembered.
In the Passchendaele Archives at the Memorial Museum Zonnebeke, we have created a living memorial where we are endeavouring to put faces and stories to the names of the missing by building a personal record with photographs, family documentation and information from military sources.
To avoid a duplication of the excellent database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission we will only create a file if a photograph is available and only if the man concerned lost his life between 12 July and 15 November 1917.
To this end we seek your help in providing family material which you may feel will assist us in building our Passchendaele Archives. Photographs, letters, personal papers and reminiscences of family members will be gratefully received but note, we do not ask for original material unless you feel that you would wish to donate such to the Memorial Museum. Copies are quite acceptable but if you are not able to copy or scan your possessions at a high resolution we are most willing to undertake the task for you.
As a measure of our thanks and for your cooperation, we shall endeavour to discover, upon your behalf, what exactly happened to your loved one. You will receive wherever possible, a trench map, marking the approximate place where he was killed or was mortally wounded. With this comes a short report based upon the war diaries of his unit.
The aims of our project are:
1. To build a personal archive of thousands of files which may be researched at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
2. To create a database with the extracts of all files and extensive research facilities to provide for example the exact location of death on trench maps.
3. To select records of 100 men to be stored at the new Visitors Centre shortly to erected near Tyne Cot Cemetery; one for each day of the battle.
4. The composition of a book on Passchendaele 1917 based upon the stories of the fallen.
If you have a family member who died at Passchendaele 1917 and would like information or assistance, upon how to assemble and collate information for our project, please contact:
The Passchendaele Archives
Jan Van der Fraenen
Tel: 0032 51 77 04 41
Fax: 0032 51 78 07 50
A 'Woolly Bear' comprised a German shrapnel shell, which burst with a cloud-like explosion.
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