Last transport of the Belgian Army for our National Fair on 21 july 2018 with our Mark IV and last Leopard tank.
1914-1918: New, A tank!
Poelkapelle is today a quiet village between Ypres and Roeselare, where life goes its normal way. Something little suggests that this was completely different way in the nineties and Poelkapelle was part of the world news several times. If you go to "Google" for a while, you will be refreshed for several hours with "Poelcapelle". Poelkapelle did not miss his appointment with history! World War I beat mercilessly in the period between 1914 and 1918: Poelkapelle disappeared from the map.
Despite the fact that Poelkapelle today apparently does not belong to the large front villages, it was like that in the past and with the arrival of the tank we hope that this will be the case again. At the start of the war in 1914, Poelkapelle was the last village on the road to Ypres that was no longer defended. The Germans occupied the village and in the spring of 1915, during the Student Battle, Poelkapelle was one large German stronghold on its way to Langemark. The struggle stagnated and both parties dug themselves in: a trench warfare had begun. In the slightly quieter year of 1916, the Germans built their infamous defense lines. The Bayern Stellung and the Flandern II Stellung ran through Poelkapelle.
Both parties had strengthened themselves and a merciless strike was announced. We write in the middle of 1917, the third battle for Ypres commenced and on 9 October the battle for Poelcapelle was delivered: Poelkapelle were swept off the map and in this mud pool the mythical French aviation hero Georges Guynemer collapsed on 11 September. Despite the fierceness of the struggle, it was again and again, as in the previous war years, a search for a breakthrough for both British and Germans. Human being was not enough for a long time and that is why more and more new techniques were being sought. Mitrailleurs, barbed wire, poison gas and flamethrowers were meanwhile commonplace, but this time the British, after earlier successes in Northern France, would unpack something completely new to the Ypres Salient: the tank! The most successful action with a tank in the Ypres Salient took place on the territory of Poelkapelle. In a landscape full of mud and crater pits, with a few main roads that were more or less visible and where only a few bunkers on the rubble of farms had remained intact, the tank had to ensure that, until then, the impregnable sites were conquered and that the number of victims in the attack could be drastically reduced.
However, most of these tanks did not reach their targets and remained hopelessly stuck in the mud and / or got hit hits. Thus arose between Sint-Juliaan and Poelkapelle, where now the Brugseweg is a trail of tank wrecks and even a real tank cemetery. There was even a tank in the middle of Poelkapelle, just before the current café de Zwaan! The tank of Poelcapelle!
A static dummy tank at the Lekkerboterbeek remembers it:
Poelkapelle was partly liberated in September / October 1917 by the British soldiers with, among other things, the help of these tanks. After the war a jammed and broken tank got stuck for a long time on the spot where later the bar 'the Zwaan' came:
1917-1941: The tank of Poelkapelle:
After the war, a real pilgrimage to the battlefields around Ypres came from Great Britain. The tank cemeteries were also permanent stops for the war tourists. Numerous are the photos from then: everyone wanted a snapshot in or on one of the tank wrecks. However, around 1923, many tanks were cleared, for the returned local population the iron of the tanks, at sale, was a welcome extra income! Fortunately, a tank in Ypres and Poelkapelle was spared. Our tank of Poelkapelle, which was sunk at café de Zwaan, was towed to the market by the then mayor Nevejan, next to the Guynemermonument. This tank, which had been a sign of hope for many British soldiers, was rightly chosen by the inhabitants of Poelkapelle as a lasting memory of world war I. For the British soldiers, for whom the tank was a sign of hope, because it meant progress and saved many lives, there was no more beautiful tribute. Meanwhile, the tank had become an indispensable part of Poelkapelle, certainly not for the Poelkapel children who played "war" on it and around it, and sometimes earned some Pennies from British tourists to spend in the surrounding shops. Many of these children of yesteryear are grandfathers and grandmothers or some more and dream of their tank from their childhood when there were still many tourists Poelkapelle who helped rebuild and keep the village through their digestion. The tank was cleaned up when the Germans came a second time in 1941 ..., even then the metal was precious!
And so the tank got a bit forgotten. Only some postcards brought back memories from time to time:
Just that tank now ensures that some Poelkapelle fans want to change this situation. The idea "whether it would not be possible to give Poelkapelle his tank again" was discussed at a meeting of the former combatants association for three years. Everyone was enthusiastic and immediately a number of idealists jumped on the cart. From the start it was clear that we went for the big work. A tank, the same size and exactly resembling the original and in the village center of Poelkapelle. The Pennie children of that time ", now grandfathers and grandmothers from Poelkapelle, watched with great interest that the tank would really come! And yes, three years later, after this tank was first mentioned, the first phase of the project was completed and the Dummy tank came.
- A static dummy tank (2008) that now serves as a carrier for the tank replica at the Lekkerboterbeek.
- A project was supported with manpower and also some money from an Englishman living in the Ypres, who wanted to erect a tank monument and pay for it, at the place where we originally wanted to place our tank. Later, we erected a separate pedestal with a tank on it as a reminder of the first deployment of the Mark IV in the Ypres Salient and because we felt that a tank monument needs a tank, like on so many other tank monuments, but this was not possible here. In this way we brought back a real tank in the village image of Poelkapelle.
- After a significant donation, the tank group decided to make a fully-fledged rolling tank and a replica of a Mark IV tank. (2013)
The intention is to keep an annual tradition with this tank and to make a trip from Sint-Juliaan to Poelkapelle as this tank once drove exactly 100 years ago. We would also like to listen to the large commemoration of the tank battle in Cambrai with the presence of our tank and this as thanks for the help.
To make our dream come true, in 2013 we bought a chassis of a hydraulic excavator that we brought together with a new and stronger chassis. This resulted in a moving "tank".
Each time you will be able to view a different video of our replica tank on each page, read a lot and have fun!
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