Just north of Ypres lies one of only 3 German cemeteries in the Flanders Fields area. The German Military Cemetery Langemark has evolved from a small group of graves and has seen numerous changes and extensions. Today, four imposing bronze statues of mourning soldiers watch over a mass grave – the so-called ‘Comrades Grave’ which contains the remains of nearly 25,000 men. The cemetery holds the remains of more than 44,000 German soldiers in total. There are no individual graves; multiple soldiers are buried together in a grave plot, with their names inscribed in the horizontal laying gravestone.
It is also the final resting place of 3000 unexperienced young soldiers that died in the First Battle of Ypres, many of them students, which is why the cemetery is also known as the Studentenfriedhof (Student’s Cemetery).
Langemark is also the place where on April 22 1915, the German army unleashed the first ever gass attack. Across a 6 km front, troops released almost 6,000 metal canisters – 168 tonnes – of poisonous chlorine gas towards trenches held by French and Algerian forces. With devastating results. A noxious yellow cloud enveloped the allied positions, and within moments 5,000 soldiers were dead, with another 10,000 injured, as the gas ate into their unprotected lungs.
More posts on my trip to Ypres: