Flanders requests Unesco heritage status for First World War sites


In a joint application with Wallonia and France, the government of Flanders has requested that 19 sites in the region be includes in Unesco World Heritage, including Tyne Cot cemetery and the Menin Gate

Decision in 2018

The government of Flanders has applied for Unesco world heritage status for 19 First World War cemeteries and other sites, minister-president Geert Bourgeois has announced. The sites form part of a joint application for Unesco recognition submitted by Flanders, Wallonia and France.

First World War sites, Bourgeois said, are an important part of the commemoration of the centenary of the war, which will culminate in the 100th anniversary of Armistice in 2018. “Recognition as Unesco world heritage would be the icing on the cake of the commemoration of the Great War,” he said. “That recognition would be an appropriate and lasting memorial, beyond 2018, of what happened here in our Flanders fields.”

The burial sites and monuments, he said, have a number of special characteristics. Their creation was the first time ever that all of the fallen were treated equally, regardless of rank or nationality. The dead were buried individually, and the missing commemorated on monuments like the Menin Gate in Ypres.

A great deal of attention was also paid, Bourgeois said, to the architecture and landscape of First World War cemeteries, and have become places of reflection as a result.

Among the 19 sites chosen for the Unesco application are the Tyne Cot (pictured), Essex Farm and Bedford House cemeteries, the Langemark and Vladslo German military cemeteries, the Nieuwpoort Memorial, the Irish Peace Tower at Poperinge and the Menin Gate.

Wallonia provided a list of seven sites, and France requested recognition for 66 sites. Unesco will study the application, with a decision expected at the annual meeting of its world heritage committee in the summer of 2018.

Photo: Milo-profi/Visit Flanders

First World War

Claiming the lives of more than nine million people and destroying entire cities and villages in Europe, the Great War was one of the most dramatic armed conflicts in human history. It lasted from 1914 to 1918.
Flanders Field - For four years, a tiny corner of Flanders known as the Westhoek became one of the war’s major battlefields.
Untouched - Poperinge, near Ypres, was one of the few towns in Flanders that remained unoccupied for most of the war.
Cemetery - The Tyne Cot graveyard in Passchendaele is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world.
550 000

lives lost in West Flanders

368 000

annual visitors to the Westhoek

1 914

First Battle of Ypres