Bellewarde, a small hamlet north of Hooge which stands east of Ypres in Belgium. Since 1954 children and adults alike have enjoyed the theme park built on soil that was the location of the Battle of Bellewaarde during World War I.
An area that was fought over for many years, which saw the first fighting take place between 24-25 May 1915, which was the last engagement of The Second Battle of Ypres, leaving the German trenches between the Menin Road and the Ypres-Roulers railway to form a salient. Behind the German front lines lay the Bellewaarde Ridge and the lake, the former giving the enemy good observation over the British lines. Hooge, at the southern point of this salient, lay battered and ruined between the opposing lines; while just south of the Ypres-Roulers railway the eastern edges of Railway Wood were held by the enemy, and the western edges by British troops of the 3rd Division. The British line from opposite Hooge ran along just south of the Menin Road to just east of Birr X Road, then turned sharply northwards skirting the eastern edges of the Cambridge Road to the angle formed by the latter and the railway, where, for some 300 yards, it followed the latter eastwards, turning again sharply north-west.
The decision had been made to attack the salient to stop the Germans reinforcing their lines some 50km south at Givenchy, and gain possession of the ridge; the attack was to be carried out by the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division on the 16th June 1915. One fact, however, should be clearly noted that, at this period there was a severe shortage of hand-grenades, the use of which in trench warfare was only just being recognised. There was also a serious shortage of shells which would mean strict rationing and accurate positioning by the artillery. This would become the 1st Battle of Bellewaarde.
There were three phases in the attack, in The first the objective was the eastern edge of a narrow strip of wood (Y.16 and Y.15), and the German front-line trenches as far as the north-east corner of Railway Wood; in the second the objective was the line of the road from a house 100 yards south of Y.17, through Y.17 to Bellewaarde Farm, then through. Y.14 and Y.11 to Y.7; the objective in the third phase was the south-western corner of Bellewaarde Lake, Y.18 - Y.12 - Y.7.
(Click map or follow link to see a full scale Battlefield Map.)
The attacking troops for the first phase were, from the right to left, the 4th Royal Fusiliers, the 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 5th (1st Northumberland) Fusiliers. As soon as the German front was taken the Royal Fusiliers were to bomb down the trench from Y.16 to Y.17, while the Royal Scots Fusiliers, in conjunction with the 5th Fusiliers, were to seize the hostile German trench lying between Y.13 and Y.15 and the second objective, the 5th Fusiliers were to push their bombing parties on towards Y.7.
As soon as the first objective had been gained the guns were to bombard the second objective, i.e., from the house 100 yards south of Y.17 to Y.11; about the centre of this line lay Bellewaarde Farm. The 1st Lincolns and the Scottish (1/10th King's Regiment), who during the first phase, were to move up to the front line which had been vacated by the troops of the first phase, and were to capture the third objective. In later years this was known as leap-frogging.
The 7th Brigade was to support the 9th, and the 8th was in reserve. On the right of the 3rd Division troops of the 7th were to support the 9th Brigade by seizing the German trenches from Y.20 to Y.16, and by covering rifle and machine-gun fire from the Menin Road. On the left the 6th Division was to assist the 3rd by opening covering fire with rifles and machine guns.
From 2.50 a.m. with three pauses at 3.10 a.m., 3.40 a.m. and 4 a.m., until 4.15 a.m., the Divisional Artillery was to bombard the enemy trenches. At 4.15 a.m. the infantry were to advance to the assault.
Article and image kindly contributed by Martin Clift.
Much more information is available on the excellent website devoted to the Battle of Bellewarde at www.bellewaarde1915.co.uk.