Flanders is gearing up for five years of exhibitions, musical performances and artistic interpretations to mark the centenary of the Great War.
During World War One, more than one million soldiers were wounded, went missing or were killed in action in this part of Belgium.
One hundred years on, the stories of the conflict are being told in interactive museums, visitor centres and memorials, engaging visitors of all ages and conveying a profound message of peace. Here are 18 ways to mark the centenary through ceremony, art, music and sport this year.
1. Learn how injured soldiers were treated
In Flanders Field Museum (Ypres) and the Dr Ghislain Museum (Ghent) are holding a dual exhibition, explaining how soldiers were treated for their physical and psychological wounds. In Flanders War and Trauma is on until June 30 2014.
2. Make a statue – To Go West
Over the next five years, visitors from around the world will be invited to create 600,000 small statues for an artistic interpretation of commemoration.
Completed statues will be exhibited in Palinbeek in 2018, creating a permanent art landscape and monument. Coming World/Remember Me – Across West Flanders from 2014-2018.
3. Learn about the war at the Royal Army Museum, Brussels
On until April 26 2015, this exhibition – Expo 14-18: It’s our history! – will draw on the rich collections of the Royal Army Museum, Brussels. Discover all aspects of the conflicts which left Europe battered and weakened, and place the history of the war in a broader context.
4. See how art and culture were casualities of war
Leuven’s acclaimed M-Museum features a new exhibition to show how art and culture have been in the line of fire many times through the ages.
Its inspiration is the symbolic torching of Leuven’s historic university library in 1914. Art by William Constable and other traditional and modern contemporaries will be displayed (until September 1 2015)
5. Visit the House of Culture and Tourism at Mesen (Messines)
A new tourist information point will open in Mesen, with an exhibition on the significance of New Zealand soldiers who fought in the Battle of Mesen (April 2014).
6. See how the ordinary folk dug for victory
Gardening during Wartime in Sit Katelijne Waver : Museum T’grom (Near Mechelen) is open until June 1 2014. This exhibition will tell the story of how ordinary people struggled with scarcity and hunger and found ways to grow food in war gardens.
7. Visit the new Welsh Monument at Hagerbos Langemark
Of the many Welsh soldiers who perished during the Great War, one of the best known was Hedd Wyn, the poet, who was killed on July 31, 1917. He was finally laid to rest at Artillery Wood Cemetery in Boezinge and his place of death was chosen as the preferred location for the new Welsh Memorial in Flanders Fields.
Using stones donated from the Graig yr Hesg quarry in Pontypridd, the monument will bear the Welsh dragon and will be a joint Flanders and Welsh Government initiative. It’s due to be unveiled on August 16 2014.
8. Pay your respects at Passchendaele … with a game of cricket
An international cricket team will take part in the first Passchendaele Memorial Cricket Cup. Cricket matches in England were suspended during the Great War so that hundreds of players could enlist into the armed forces. (August 16-18 2014 (TBC))
9. This one is a little bit Noah …
At the coastal resort of Nieuwpoort, an innovative visitor centre will be built on the site of the King Albert Monument and next to the Ganzenpoot (Goose Foot) lock complex.
During the Battle of Yser, the area around the river was deliberately flooded from Nieuwpoort to Diksmuide to hold back the advancing German army.
The centre is dedicated to explaining the story of the flooding of the Yser plain and will offer visitors an impressive view of the area from the top of the King Albert Monument. (October 2014)
10. Learn about the Battle of the Yser and the First Battle of Ypres
The In Flanders Fields Museum Ypres will run an historical exhibition focusing on the Battle of the Yser and the First Battle of Ypres to run concurrently with a photography exhibition featuring the art of Maurice and Robert Anthony. (October 1 2014- January 4 2015)
11. Walk across a Pontoon Bridge over the River Scheldt – Antwerp
The pontoon bridge provided a daring escape route for civilians and soldiers in besieged Antwerp. The reconstruction, 100 years later, will include exhibitions about refugees, photography and avant garde art. (October 3-5 2014)
12. See what the war looked like – in Bruges
A historical exhibition at The War in Pictures /Bruges at War – Belfort tells the story of the city’s occupation by Germans and daily life. Two photography exhibitions continue this broader perspective until the present day. (October 14 2014-February 22 2015)
13. Take in the Light Front and The List of Names Across West Flanders
8,750 torch bearers will form a human chain over a 54-mile route from Nieuwpoort on the coast to Plugstreet near the French border.
At the same time, a list of names (victims of the war) will be projected onto three symbolic towers: the Belfry in Ypres, the Yser Tower in Diksmuide and the King Albert Memorial in Nieuwpoort. (October 17 2014)
14. Rock out at The Flooding of the Plains Concert – Nieuwpoort
On Saturday, October 18, a one-off event will be organised in the area around the lock complex in Ganzenpoot. Four Belgian bands – Amatorski, Het Zesde Metaal, Marockin’ Brass and Ozark Henry – will perform new pieces inspired by the flooding of the plain for the first time, as well as some of their earlier work.
15. Join in with the 1,000 Voices for Peace at the Festival of Flanders
Choirs from Belgium will be joined by choirs from the four corners of the world to sing the Oratorio for Peace – a new composition by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki.
Some of Belgium’s top artists such as Arno Hintjes, Sioen, Dirk Brossé and Jef Neve will also appear at the event to give live performances too. (November 9 2014)
16. Pay your respects at the Passchendaele Ceremony 1914-1917-2014
A traditional remembrance service will commemorate the end of the Battle of Passchendaele with a ceremony at the Crest Farm Canadian Memorial and a torch-lit parade to Passchendaele church.
Exactly 100 years after the Great War began, the ceremony will focus on the lives of some of the “Old Contemptibles” who returned here in 1917. (November 10 2014)
17. Mark the Christmas Truce – Mesen (Messines)
This special moment during the First World War will be commemorated via music through several new productions. Folk artist, Alan Stivell is inspired by the festive armistice between English, German and French troops at Christmas 1915.
John Cale will perform some of his old and new songs on December 20 in Mesen. Finally, Virginia McKenna & The Voices at the Door (featuring Coope Boyes and Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes) will take part in the first showing of “The Best Christmas Present in The World” by Michael Morpurgo in Ypres Cathedral on December 22. (December 18 & 20 , 22 2014)
18. Watch THAT football game – the Christmas Truce Event – at VK Westhoek Stadium, Ypres and Mesen
A football collaboration with the English Premier League and various national football associations. On December 21, a ceremony to commemorate the Truce football match takes place in the presence of legendary footballers. December 19-21 2014
* Many of the sites associated with the Great War are located just across the French border and situated about an hour’s drive from the main channel ports.