In the Second World War, after the Battle of France in May 1940 the north and west of France and the whole of Belgium were occupied by the German Army. British and French troops had made a fighting withdrawal through this part of Flanders in south-west Belgium to the ports of Dunkirk and Calais, passing through some of the old battlegrounds of the First World War in the Ypres Salient. Some of the British casualties of May 1940 are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries side by side with British soldiers who died in this same place defending Belgian soil just over twenty years before them. In 1916, the prospect of a speedy end of the war seemed further away than ever. In Germany, it was decided to shift the focus west to Verdun (France). The city was surprised with a massive bombardment. The French and German losses were enormous but Verdun ultimately remained in French hands. On 1 July 1916 a British offensive broke loose in the Somme that eventually lasted four months. The result were hundreds of thousands killed or wounded soldiers on both sides of the front.Although no major offensive took place, the fighting was still ongoing in Flanders Fields. In this period, about 100,000 soldiers fell in the Westhoek, about 127 per day. . The first gas attack occurred against Canadian, British, and French soldiers, including both metropolitan French soldiers as well as Senegalese and Algerian tirailleurs (light infantry) from French Africa. The gas used was chlorine. Mustard gas, also called Yperite from the name of this town, was also used for the first time near Ypres, in the autumn of 1917.Hitler here in Ypres under the Menin Gate and in Compiégne where the Armistice after the first war was signed
A local man from Wytschaete, south of Ypres, who was a young boy at the time, recalled the impression it made on him suddenly to see a convoy of big black cars and lots of German officers in their grey uniforms driving near his family’s farmhouse. He hid in the wood owned by his family and watched Adolf Hitler walking nearby with his entourage of officers. In the First World War Hitler had served with the Bavarian Reserve-Infantry-Regiment 16 and had been in action south of Ypres in the area of Wytschaete on the Messines Ridge.
Adolf Hitler spent two days visiting the Ypres Salient battlefields. His tour included the town of Ypres and Langemark military cemetery.