18 Aug 2013
Ghost of the British Legion in Ypres, Belgium
This intriguing English-language ghostsigns is found in Ypres, Belgium, and has been identified for protection given its historical significance. I was alerted to it by regular correspondent, Daniel Lohmann, who has also done a bit of digging into this unusual ghostsign specimen.
Firstly is the ghostsign itself and an explanation for it’s language, location and significance. Daniel was able to track down this article [Link expired] and apply Google translate to the text which reveals the following:
“Wall Ad for Haig House in Ieper provisionally protected.
The mural is an advertisement for the British Legion Haig House, a center for British pilgrims the front around Ypres and wanted to visit the graves of loved ones. The mural is a unique witness of the post-war tourism front and is within the range of thematic protect the valuable heritage of the First World War.
The mural from the interwar period came to light when working on a row to the workers’ Poperingseweg 55-65 in Ypres. During the interwar period, the ‘Devastated Regions’ attended by veterans, survivors and tourists. The ‘British Legion’ is a veterans organization that plays an important role in the organization of the British tourism front. On April 28, 1932 she founded the Short Torhoutstraat Ypres in a reception center for British pilgrims.
The wall ad is specifically applied in the 30s on this side wall for many British pilgrims who flocked to the center of Ypres and Poperinge from Calais via the Poperinghe. The specific location of the workmen in a bend of the Poperinghe and remained undeveloped parcels adjoining the mural visible from afar. Was The mural has an important historical and socio-cultural value. This material witness recalls the ‘Great War’ that the front region had for years in his grip and hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed. The mural refers specifically to the British front tourism from the interwar period. Today Ypres still frequented by British tourists, the front region and the graves of their ancestors to visit.”
Genevra Charsley from Flanders Battlefield Tour was part of a local group of tour guides that set about protecting the sign when it was revealed during building renovations. This mirrors many other protection and restoration efforts around the world in being driven by local people and interests. She notes the following:
When the owner of the houses was restoring them, shale tiles were originally on the side of the wall, which had hidden the sign from public view and of course effectively protected it. The tiles once removed meant that the sign was now in danger of being lost due to the exposure to the weather. We made contact with the owner who at that point had not received any word from ministers or locals wishing to protect it. As we are a group of passionate battlefield guides it was important to us that the sign be preserved due to its historic origins, legacy and especially with the centenary around the corner.
So we set up our group, in short ‘Muppets‘, and set about putting a call to action out, to raise funds to preserve the sign. As per our website all the names listed are all the organisations and individuals that have donated or are donating.
The restoration “was all done by a group of local enthusiasts with the agreement and support of the owner of the houses and representatives of the Town Hall of Ieper”. It was only at this point, with the project profile being raised through journalists, that the Minister for Heritage, Geert Bourgeois, got involved. Using the less than perfect services of Google translate we get the following from Bourgeois’ website:
“Flemish Minister Geert Bourgeois, Minister for Heritage, the provisional protection of a unique wall advertisement from the interwar signed in Ypres on the facade of a house in the Poperinghe. It is a painted advertisement for the British Legion Haig House, a center for British pilgrims. Basically follows, after going through the procedure, including a public inquiry, within a year the final protection .
When working on a row of laborers from the interwar period to the Poperingseweg (55-65), is a very recent mural emerged. It is an advertisement for the British Legion Haig House, a center for British pilgrims the front around Ypres and the graves of loved ones wanted to visit.
“This mural is a unique witness to the postwar visits to Flanders Fields” said Minister Bourgeois. “She also recalls the great war, the front region had for years in his grip and hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed. In order to commemorate the Great War ‘100’ is this ad very valuable, not only historically, but also socio-cultural: today Ypres is still frequented by British tourists, the front region and the graves of their like visiting ancestors know.”
During the interwar period, the ‘Devastated Regions’ attended by veterans, survivors and tourists. The ‘British Legion’ is a veterans organization that plays an important role in the organization of the British tourism front. On April 28, 1932 she founded the Short Torhoutstraat in Ieper a reception center for British pilgrims.”
Genevra observes that the ministers efforts are a welcome bonus to hers and the work of others in restoring and protecting the sign. However, the legal route would not have been sufficient to save it as, “this takes time and so it was imperative that we still did the preservation work, as it could take anything from one year up to three years to get the sign listed”.
This is such a fascinating discovery on so many levels and, if such a thing exists, a good contender for ghostsigns protection given its linguistic and historical peculiarities. I am sure there is more to this story so if you can add to the information above then please do so via the comments below. Thanks Daniel for the lead and for the link to the original ghostsign photo on Flickr and also thanks to Genevra for getting in touch to clarify the story and the work of Muppets in protecting and restoring the sign.
[This post has been updated since it was first published on 18th August 2013 to reflect clarifications received from Genevra Charsley of Flanders Battlefield Tour.]