It might be nearly one hundred years since the start of World War One, but it would appear that weapons from the conflict are still causing bloodshed today and a buried shell or grenade has exploded killing two people in Belgium.
The device exploded after it was disturbed by workmen on a building site of a new factory in Ypres and according to the BBC another two have also been injured — with one in critical condition and fighting for his life. Explosive experts are currently at the building site, which has been sealed off after the tragic incident.
The hangovers of World War One including unexploded weapons like this one are often found in Ypres, which was shelled by German forces for most of the war.
And it is believed that there could be thousands more hidden explosives from the conflict still lying buried in and around Ypres like ‘ticking time bombs’ just waiting to go off.
Usually, most of the explosive armaments found in Belgium are destroyed under controlled conditions by a special army bomb squad and without such tragic consequences. However, most are buried or very well hidden causing several hundred people to have been killed in similar explosions since the end of the war.
A strategic position
Ypres occupied a strategic position during World War I standing in the path of Germany's planned sweep across the rest of Belgium and into France from the north, which was highlighted in the German 'Schlieffen Plan'. The Flanders battlefields cover the areas where Allied forces clashed with their Germany enemies for most of the war.
The neutrality of Belgium was guaranteed by Britain and Germany's invasion of Belgium brought the British Empire into the war.
The German army surrounded Ypres on three sides, bombarding it throughout much of the war. To counterattack, British, French, and allied forces made costly advances from the Ypres Salient into the German lines on the surrounding hills.
The Third Battle of Ypres (21 July to 6 November 1917, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele) was extremely costly in human suffering out of the battles was in which the British, Canadian, ANZAC, and French forces recaptured the Passchendaele Ridge east of the city at a terrible cost of lives.
After months of fighting, this battle resulted in nearly half a million casualties to all sides, and only a few miles of ground won by Allied forces. During the course of the war the town was all but obliterated by the artillery fire.
British soldiers often referred to Ypres as Wipers as a deliberate mispronunciation. British soldiers even published a wartime newspaper called the Wipers Times which Forces War Records hold in their historic documents library.
Did your ancestor serve in Ypres or the Somme? Maybe they read the Wipers Times or the Somme Times? Research your family history and read the The Wipers Times and its following editions including The Somme Times, The BEF Times, The Kemmel Times and The New Church Times, which are available to read via the Forces War Records website.