The Rebuilding of Flanders Fields

During World War I the Westhoek area of Flanders was flattened by artillery fire. In 2020 numerous events are taking place to tell the story of how it was rebuilt.

The Rebuilt Cloth Hall Ypres
In Flanders Fields Museum

In 2020, the story of the reconstruction of the Westhoek region of Flanders is told. Post World War One, the Westhoek was destroyed with craters and a landscape strewn with both exploded and unexploded ammunition. Without a single tree in sight, steps began to rebuild and regenerate this area so that residents could return to the life that they had before the war broke out.
This year, the Westhoek area will host a series of events and exhibitions to tell this unique story of rebirth and survival, in the face of adversity and the aftermath of destruction.

Reconstructing Flanders Fields

7 March – 15 November 2020
In Flanders Fields Museum
Post-war reconstruction dominated Belgian society for many years. From Leuven to Passchendaele, from Ypres to Liège, wartime activities had left their traces. The recovery was the work of man. While some Belgians never came back, most of them returned and moved on with their lives. The result of their labour is still visible in today’s landscape. Reconstructing Flanders Fields tells us a story of human resilience. Unique photographs from the Ypres brothers Maurice and Robert Antony report how ruined cities and ghost towns recovered. On the other hand, visitors and inhabitants had their own individual experiences. The recovery of every house and every piece of land was accompanied with feelings of joy, but also with suffering and danger. This exhibition details the story of Belgium’s national recovery after the First World War.

Café Pax: The Return to the West Flanders Hills

14 March 2020- 11 November 2021
Visitors Centre at Heuvelland
At Café Pax, the atmosphere of life in the temporary housing of the post-war period is brought back to life. The attic floor of the visitor’s centre will be transformed into a barrack tavern in which local villagers will guide you through the region as it was in the years immediately after the First World War. It was not just the local community that recovered quickly; tourists also soon found their way back to the hill country in the south-west of the Westhoek. Visitors, returnees and newcomers: they all met at Café Pax!

The ‘Landscape and War. The Heuvelland 1914-1918’ exhibition illustrates the influence of the hills on the course of the First World War.

herSTELLINGEN (Reconstruction and Recovery)

Yper Museum
21 March 2020 – Mid-January 2021
Immediately after the Armistice, the previous inhabitants of the region started to return. People searched for ways to provide for their family, children started to go back to school, the associations were re-established, and most of all the people of Ypres rebuilt broken bricks into their homes again. This story is central to the exhibition in the Yper Museum. A new theme appears on a monthly basis.

Born survivors. The flight and return of refugees after the First World War’Fransmans (Frenchmen’s) Museum

4 April 2020 onwards
The Fransmans Museum in Koelare focuses on an exhibition about the socio-economic aspect of seasonal employment and the impact of temporary and permanent migration caused by the war.

Huib Hoste and Modernism

Church of Our Lady – Zonnebeke
18 April to 15 November 2020
Modernist Architect Huib Hoste takes tours of his very own Church of Our Lady in Zonnebeke telling the remarkable story of his unique creations in a mostly traditional reconstruction project.
From Recovery to Remembrance: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission after the First World War
Information Centre CWGC
1 April to 15 November 2020

From Recovery to Remembrance: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission after the First World War

After the First World War, there was much debate about how and where to commemorate the dead. The newly formed Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) was at the centre of public anger about bodies not being repatriated home, everyone being treated equally with a uniform style of headstone, and creating memorials for the missing once the search for bodies stopped.
“From Recovery to Remembrance” explores the complexities and controversies of key decisions the IWGC made as it undertook the mammoth task of commemorating 1.1 million casualties, 194.000 from Belgium. With competing creative visions and the pressure to rebuild quickly after the war, we reveal the behind-the-scenes story of how the Commission began to shape the landscapes of remembrance we know today. Alongside a wealth of archive images and never-before-seen documents are displayed artefacts recovered from the former battlefields, giving a powerful insight into the strenuous efforts to bury the dead with dignity. Next to the exhibition we organise talks on the Menin Gate Memorial and a walking tour of Ieper. For more information and to book, please see

Tuberculosis after the First World War

De Lovie Castle – Poperinge
25 April to 25 October 2020
The exhibition tells the personal stories of patients, medical staff and their families, as well as illustrating the impact that the disease had on the sufferers and their environment. Located in a magnificent castle park.

Risen from the Ashes

15 May 2020 – end of the year
Town Hall -Diksmuide
This will be a multi-media exhibition which will be hosted in a brand-new section of Diksmuide’s Town Hall and delves into all the aspects of the reconstruction of Diksmuide and the wider area. On 22 May 2020, a large-scale evocative spectacle about the reconstruction of the city and the Westhoek will take place on Grote Markt (Main Square). Live music and performances will alternate with video projections on the facades of the historic buildings.

Risen from the Ashes Event

Diksmuide Market Square
20 May 2020
The town of Diksmuide will be organising a large scale event on the Market Square. With music, theatre and humour, scenarist Bart Cafmeyer tells stories great and small from the reconstruction period in a lighthearted manner, complete with live music and spectacular projections.

Stories through the eyes of children

4 July 2020 – Messines (Mesen)
Malting Tower – De Kinderbrouwerij (Brewery) in Reningelst (Poperinge).
An interactive information booth with a 360° view of the vista from the tower brings the historical sites from before, during and shortly after the war to life on the ground floor of Saint Nicholas’ Church in Veurne. At the other side of the Westhoek, visitors are treated to the historical story of Mesen during the First World War and the story of how children experienced this upheaval.

‘Wild West’ Exhibition

Langemark-Poelkapelle Church

19 April to 7 October 2020

The church in Poelkapelle hosts the “Wild West” exhibition which focuses on lawlessness after the war and the reinstallation of law enforcement in the Westhoek. The exhibition is also the starting point for the walk “The Wild West”, a story carousel about the reconstruction of a village and the restoration of the police system in “the Wild West”.

Reconstruction Woesten

Sint-Rictrudis Church Woesten

6 June until 28 September 2020

At the end of the First World War, a large part of the village of Woesten was destroyed. Nevertheless, many residents had stayed on-site and village life started again. But the reconstruction was slow and would last until the end of the twenties. Not everyone was happy with the new view of the village.

Follow the….Feniks Nieuwpoort

29 – 31 July and 1 – 2 August 2020.
‘Follow the Feniks’ promises to be a memorable show with videomapping, theatre and live music on the Market Square in Nieuwpoort. It tells a moving story about letting go, taking back and moving on. Directors Mieke Dobbels and Frieda Vanslembrouck, supported by musician Johan Bouttery, highlight the aspects that make Nieuwpoort a typical ‘reconstructed’ town – or how something was made from nothing. Evening walks take place from 19.00-22.00

A Symphony Of Trees, Ieper

24 & 25 October 2020, Saint Martin’s Cathedral Ieper
Composed especially for the 2014-2018 centenary, Composer Piet Swerts created ‘A Symphony of Trees’ as homage to the City of Ypres and to Poet and Composer Ivor Gurney. This magnificent work, which concludes the Feniks project, will be performed by ‘Koninklijke Harmonie Ypriana’ (Royal Wind Band), which will be celebrating its own centenary in 2020.

Walking routes

Feniks Walk, Ypres – 2,3 km

The Feniks walk takes you to all the most remarkable reconstruction sites in Ypres. Follow the circuit between the Colaertplein and the Market Square, passing some of the city’s most outstanding buildings along the way.

The walk, including a number of fascinating ‘did you knows’ about the reconstruction, can be consulted free of charge via the app ‘Ypres Salient 1914-1918: From the ashes’.

‘Footsteps’, Diksmuide – 3 km

With this walk you can follow in the footsteps of the pioneers of the reconstruction in Diksmuide, who brought the town back to life after the war.
The map is available at Tourism Diksmuide (Grote Markt 6).

Follow the Feniks / Feniks 2020, Nieuwpoort – 3 km

Follow the Phoenix through the historic town centre of Nieuwpoort.
The map is available at Toerisme Nieuwpoort (Marktplein 7 & Hendrikaplein 1).

‘Zonnebeke reborn’ – 4 km

A new heritage walk ‘Zonnebeke reborn: what after the Great War?’, forms part of the series ‘Stories along the way’ and tells the story of how life and society in Zonnebeke recovered after the First World War. The map is available (€ 5) at Toerisme Zonnebeke (Berten Pilstraat 5a).

Sound walk ‘The Wild West’, Langemark-Poelkapelle – 8,5 km

A carousel of stories about the reconstruction of a village and the recovery of the police system in the ‘Wild West’. The map is available at Toerisme Langemark-Poelkapelle (Kasteelstraat 1), Infopunt Oud Gemeentehuis (Guynemerplein 5) and Guynemerpaviljoen (Brugseweg 126).