Poperinge was a well-known resting place for Allied soldiers fighting in the Ypres Salient, located just 12km from the prominent World War One theatre of war.
Known as ‘Pop’ to many, Poperinge was a forward base for the area from 1914 onwards, only ever captured by the Germans for a single day on 14th October 1914.
Prior to the war, the area was surrounded by hop fields and farms, but as the war progressed it became home to many Allied facilities including hospitals, barracks and training areas. Famous examples including The Collège Stanislas, which was an Episcopal establishment used by the Friends’ Ambulance Unit to treat civilians injured in the Ypres battles, as well as the Skindles officers’ club, opened by Madame Beutin and named after a similar place in Maidenhead.
The town’s railway station also became one of the most important on the Western Front, being used both by the military and by refugees who were fleeing Ypres as the war rapidly took over the Salient.
Unfortunately, the importance of the railway meant it was a key target for German artillery, which bombarded the whole town with shells due to the lack of accuracy of the weapons.
Despite this, the station remained a welcome sight for soldiers who were going on leave, while those returning to Ypres would have seen it in a very different light.
Despite being constantly attacked by German shells, the local restaurants in the town also became very popular among the soldiers when they received two or three days leave. Talbot House was a particularly popular site, offering peace, refuge and a taste of home for soldiers who needed a well-earned break from the front lines.
Of course, the proximity of Poperinge to Ypres meant it was also used for more sinister actions, with the town hall (Stadhuis) in the Grote Markt containing the courtyard where soldiers would be shot by firing squad when condemned to death. Today, there is a ‘Shot At Dawn’ memorial in place next to the execution post to mark the events that took place there. In total 7- executions were held within the Stadhuis grounds, including 50 British soldiers and 20 French.
"Poperinge and World War One". HistoryLearning.com. 2019. Web.