Hooge Crater is located about 4km eastwards of Ypres.
The village of Hooge grew around a mansion situated along the Menin Road, the road that linked Ypres and Menin.
The Menin Road was the road that took the Allied troops to the front lines.
It was therefore under constant German artillery attack during the Ypres Salient battles.
Hooge was a major strategic spot, as it was indeed right on the front lines.
It therefore became the theatre of fierce fighting that lasted until 1918 and turned it, along with the surrounding area, into a scene of apocalypse!
Control of Hooge was essential for both the Germans and the Allies; the various offensive ended tragically in an astronomical number of casualties!
The village of Hooge was rebuilt farther along the Menin Road after the war.
Hooge Crater Site
The original Hooge Crater was flooded in the 1920s.
The current crater is the result of the merging of three smaller craters which were flooded and kept in their war state for future generations.
The roof of a half submerged German bunker is still visible at one end.
The Hooge Crater site is today located on the grounds of the Kasteelhof Hooghe, a hotel-restaurant built roughly on the site of the old mansion’s stables.
Entrance fee to the site is at the discretion of the visitor.
There is a collection box by the entrance; the funds collected are dedicated to its maintenance.
A path leads around a water-filled crater, along a network of preserved trenches.
Numerous war artifacts were left in place in the grounds and are displayed all along the path.
Their size and number, but also the photos displayed on the information boards scattered on the site, give an idea of the fighting.
Only one of the pillboxes built in 1916 (near the entrance) can be accessed; the others are indeed partially or entirely submerged.
From there you can see the ruined Bellewaerde theme park, which was developed on the site of the mansion.
Hooge Crater and Chateau
Major General Monro established his Divisional Headquarters in Hooge Chateau at the beginning of the conflict.
However, the building took a direct hit and was completely destroyed by a German shell attack on October 31, 1914.
Most staff and officers were killed or wounded.
The Germans eventually captured Hooge Chateau at the end of an offensive that lasted from 24 may to 3 June 1915.
Hooge Crater was the result of a massive explosion.
On July 19, 1915 the British decided to destroy, with a limited but well-targeted attack, the concrete fortifications the Germans were building.
The 175th Tunneling Company of Royal Engineers therefore dug out a 57m long gallery over a period of five and a half weeks.
The 3rd Infantry Division then placed a 1,700kg charge of ammonal underneath the German fortifications.
The largest mine of WWI blew at 7pm on July 19, 1915 and left a 40m wide by 6m deep crater!
Hundreds of Germans, but also a dozen Commonwealth soldiers who found themselves under the path of fallen debris, were killed during the explosion.
The 1st Gordon Highlanders and the 4th Middlesex Regiments immediately attacked the newly formed crater and captured it.
However, the Germans led a surprise counter-offensive 11 days after the explosion, on July 30, 1915 at 3.15am and recaptured Hooge Crater after fierce fighting.
They started their assault in the area today located between the crater and the fence of the ruined theme park.
They used flamethrowers.
The then ‘new’ lethal weapon blew 23m long jet flames accompanied by thick black smoke and took the Commonwealth soldiers by surprise.
The 8th Rifle Brigade and the 7th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps were indeed pushed back towards the level of Hooge Crater Cemetery.
The British 6th Infantry Division re-captured Hooge Crater on August 9, 1915.
The Germans re-attacked in June 1916 during the Battle of Mont Sorrel.
The British 8th Infantry Division re-captured Hooge Crater on July 31, 1917 and broke through the German lines on about 1,5km of distance.
The Germans re-seized it in April 1918, however, the British forced them to definitively retreat on the 28th!
Hooge Crater was filled with water in the 1920s.
Hooge Chapel Museum
The privately owned museum was inaugurated in 1994.
It was founded in a chapel built in 1920 along the Menin Road, next to the crater.
A local family indeed bought the dilapidated chapel and disused village school.
The chapel today houses the museum, the school and the theme café.
Sandbags, supposed to evoke trenches, line the entrance to the musuem.
Hooge Museum exhibits numerous and unique collections of the Great War, both indoors and outdoors.
Hooge Crater CWGC Cemetery
Sir Edwin Lutens designed the cemetery, which is situated opposite the crater.
It was opened in October 1917 as a field cemetery in order to bury the men who died assaulting Hooge.
It was then enlarged after the war in order to gather and rebury with full Honour all the soldiers buried in the many field graves of the area.
Hooge Crater CWGC Cemetery therefore contains 5,892 graves.
These include 5153 British, 509 Australians, 119 New-Zealanders, 95 Canadians and 2 British West Indies graves.
45 Special Memorial Stones were dedicated to soldiers believed and known to be buried in the grounds, but whose graves’ location was lost during the war.
Sadly, two thirds of the soldiers buried in Hooge Crater Cemetery are unidentified!
The Stone of Remembrance stands in the centre of a circle located right by the entrance.
The circular lawn is delineated by a stonewall that evokes Hooge Crater.
The Cross of Sacrifice stands at the edge of the ‘crater’ and faces the central alley and thousands of white stones.
Coordinates: Lat 50.846197 – Long 2.945715