Reclaiming the Salient

Reclaiming the Salient

Resurrecting the Great War Battlegrounds of Flanders Fields

Roger Steward

The end of the First World War saw the fields of Flanders contaminated by incalculable amounts of unexploded munitions and thousands of rotting corpses still exposed on the old battlefields. This is the story of how the battlefields of Belgium were, and still are, being cleared of the legacy of the Great War.
Date Published :
August 2022
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Language:
English
Illustration :
36 b/w photos, 58 color photos, 2 color ills, 1 b/w sketch, 2 color historic maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781915113672
Pages : 216
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order
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$39.95

Overview
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By the end of the Great War, the destruction of the Ypres Salient was complete. The fabled Flanders Fields were devastated, hardly a building or tree was left standing in the battlefield areas that surrounded the city of Ypres. This once proud and prosperous medieval city and been reduced to rubble by years of German artillery fire. Such was the level of destruction it is said that in 1919, a man on horseback had an unrestricted view from one corner of the city to the other. The rural areas surrounding the city faired no better with the armies firing millions of artillery shells in an area of roughly 100 square miles. The landscape had been transformed from its peace time agricultural scene to one of death and horror. The Ypres Salient was now a lunar surface of deep mud and millions of flooded shell holes whose murky depths concealed the horrors which lay beneath its surface.

In November 1918, the war ended, and the warring factions laid down their arms and started to think of a life post war back at home with their families. For the people of Ypres however the war had left an indelible imprint on the fields of Flanders. The detritus and horror of war lay all around to see. The industrial armies of the Great War had retired back from where they had come leaving a scene of complete annihilation behind them. Millions of unexploded artillery shells littered the lunar landscape, the ground was contaminated with copper, lead and all sorts of poisonous chemicals. The graves of the fallen covered the battlefields with many bodies laying exposed on the surface rotting in the morass. Very little would grow in these ‘devastated regions’, the water was polluted and shelter was non-existent.

Yet the people of Ypres gradually returned to this scene of purgatory, ready to rebuild their houses and remove the traces of war from the landscape, they set to the task, determined to succeed.

Reclaiming the Salient tells the remarkable story of the Great War ‘clean up’ in the Ypres Salient. Covering the early days after the war when official military teams were present salvaging whatever they could and the years after their departure the book gives an incredible insight into the first truly industrial worldwide conflict and the incredible amounts of raw materials and human lives it consumed in its wake.

Covering two specific subjects, the recovery of ammunition and the recovery of human remains from the Great War in the Salient, the book takes the story of the clearing of the battlefields up to the present day. The Great War guns fell silent in the Ypres Salient well over 100 years ago, yet their impact is still evident. Each year the Belgian bomb disposal units recover an average of 250 tons of Great War munitions from the fields of Flanders. With the cooperation of the Belgian armed forces Reclaiming the Salient is able to describe in depth the discovery and destruction process of Great War munitions discovered in the Ypres Salient. Unfortunately, munitions are not the only thing recovered on a regular basis. Each year the farmers plough or construction work will reveal the mortal remains of missing soldiers who have lain lost in the fields of Flanders since the end of the Great war, with the cooperation of the MOD and CWGC. Reclaiming the Salient details the recovery, potential identification and reburial process of the remains of our fallen discovered in the Ypres Salient today.

About The Author
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Roger Steward is an experienced and well respected battlefield historian residing in Ypres, Belgium. Having accompanied thousands of visitors in the Ypres Salient over the last decade Roger’s in-depth knowledge of the area spans from the years of the Great War to the present day. Roger has been interviewed on Sky News and BBC Radio and has also assisted BBC researchers for their programming in advance of the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele. In 2021, Roger wrote the acclaimed ‘Studentenfriedhof to Soldatenfriedhof, A History of Langemark German Cemetery and self-guided tour’.

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