Bayernwald, Wijtschaete

Bayernwald, Wijtschaete

Bayernwald, Bavarian Forest, Croonaert Wood or Bois Quarante are all names for the same place where today you can visit a German trench system.
What you see today is not how it looked until recently. When I first visited the area it was owned by Andre Becquart who was a local school teacher. He was a fascinating chap always keen to talk and chat although often his stories became taller and taller! From time to time, as money allowed, he excavated the bunkers in his ‘back garden’ and cleared some of the trenches and his ambition was to clear one of the two mineshafts (Berta 4) and fully explore it. It was not to be. Each year the undergrowth grew over his clearing and unless maintained became steadily worse. He had a large garage/shed/lean-to — his museum — where he would ‘hold court’ surrounded by artifacts he had salvaged from the battlefields that were, at that time, in profusion.
Following Andre’s death his house and the important historical site fell into terrible disrepair. It was very sad to see its decline and it appeared as if it would be lost forever. Thankfully the local council came to the rescue and purchased the land with its trenches, bunkers and mineshaft.
During 2004 work began on the restoration of the site and the photographs below show the trenches being recovered. A German method of revetment using willow is beautifully displayed and the trenches are topped with sandbags. Information panels are installed throughout the site and at the entrance is superb brass relief map showing the sector as it was during the war 1914.
It was whilst serving in the sector in December 1914 that Adolf Hitler won the Iron Cross Second Class.
The photographs below show the trenches under construction followed by some as it is today — including a further harvest of iron!

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