Pierre Lannoy (docent bij de Faculté de Philosophie et sciences sociales aan de Université Libre de Bruxelles) legt een ‘vergeten geschiedenis’ bloot, door te kijken naar de aanwezigheid en inzet van Italiaanse krijgsgevangenen die na de slag om Caporetto in oktober-november 1917 werden geïnterneerd in bezet België.
In 1936, the Australian War Memorial acquired two stone lions that once guarded the Menin Gate entrance to the Belgian town of Ypres. The Memorial’s director, John Treloar, felt the Memorial had scored a “great scoop” because of their “historical value”. However, when the lions arrived in Canberra, it was apparent the damage they sustained during the war meant they would need to undergo some form of restoration. Unfortunately, little progress was made in this endeavour for several decades and the lions did not end up going on permanent display until 1991.
By their very nature, national building programs legitimize and ennoble some groups and exclude and silence others. This is underscored in commemorative architecture, which visually amplifies messages of communal belonging or separation. In the First World War, the burial and sacrifices of soldiers in the Indian Expeditionary Forces and those employed in the Chinese Labor Corps were subsumed into a topography of a British remembrance practice.
As a focal point of British military operations during the First World War, Ypres attracted large numbers of British visitors. The sites of memory scattered across the battlefields of Ypres were created by the events of the war. However, their continuing profile, status and significance was very much shaped by the way visitors explored the district. A number of interlocking elements relating to individual, and group, interests and practical issues of access and movement influenced the evolution.
In January 1919, Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965) chaired a session of the Imperial War Graves Commission in London during which he declared that the destroyed city of Ypres was a symbol for the suffering of the British Empire. He intended to keep the centre of Ypres in permanent ruins, as holy ground and a “zone of silence”. Initially, Belgium’s government supported the idea, which was firmly disapproved by the local Ypres population. Moreover, since 1916, state officials had drafted plans to reconstruct the country through several institutions.