Plaine au Bois Memorial Site
Plaine au bois Memorial Site
On May 28, 1940, a hundred of British soldiers belonging to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the Cheshire Regiment and the Royal Artillery are ordered to delay the advance of German troops. The lattre try to join Dunkirk to prevent the embarkation of the allies, known as Dynamo Operation. The mission of the British is to contain the Germans for five hours, in an area at the boundaries of Esquelbecq, Ledringhem and Wormhout. After nine hours of resistance causing losses on both sides, the British are forced to surrender.
The survivors are taken prisoners and herded in a barn located in a pasture at a called place "La Plaine au Bois" in Esquelbecq.
In this barn, actually a cow shelter, the S.S of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, the most bloodthirsty, crammed in the survivors to massacre them in the late afternoon, May 28, 1940.
Under the command of Wilhelm MOHNKE, they began their terrible work by throwing five stick grenades into the barn among the British. Two soldiers tried to escape from the barn, towards a nearby pond, which they managed to reach. Unfortunately, a S.S soldier joined them and coldly killed one of them and fired on the second who played dead. He managed the next day to join, crawling, a nearby farm where a doctor gave him first aid.
The body of the second soldier was never found despite the cleaning of the pond. A belvedere was built with the sediment extracted from the pond, completed by the sludge of another pond. At the top of this belvedere, there is an orientation table representing the British positions and the movements of the Nazi troops. Near this belvedere is a stele erected in memory of the combatants and civilians who fell during the Second World War in this part of Flanders.
The victims of this massacre are buried in the Esquelbecq Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery, and in the Ledringhem and Wormhout cemeteries.
A stele of “Peace and friendship among peoples” was inaugurated on May 28, 2010, 70th anniversary of the massacre and 10th anniversary of the creation of the memory association of Plaine au Bois.
Guided tours in French and English are organized by the Hauts de Flandre Tourist Office.
Information at Esquelbecq Tourism bureau (+33 (0)328.628.857). The site is always open to free access.
A memory trail, under development, will follow, on foot, by bike or by car, the events and highlights places of the Second World War, in the three towns of Esquelbecq, Ledringhem and Wormhout. Release date scheduled for August 2017.
Les victimes de ce massacre reposent au cimetière militaire du Commonwealth d’Esquelbecq, et dans les cimetières de Ledringhem et Wormhout.
Une stèle de la paix et de l’amitié entre les peuples a été inaugurée le 28 mai 2010, 70ème anniversaire du massacre et 10ème anniversaire de la création de l’association de mémoire de la Plaine au Bois.
Des visites guidées, en français et en anglais, sont organisées par l’Office de Tourisme des Hauts de Flandre. Renseignements à Esquelbecq Tourisme (03.28.62.88.57). Le site est également en accès libre.
Un sentier de mémoire, en cours d’élaboration, permettra de suivre, à pieds, à vélo ou en voiture, les évènements et lieux phares de la deuxième guerre mondiale, sur les trois communes d’Esquelbecq, Ledringhem et Wormhout.
La Plaine au Bois
Rue des Dunkirk Veterans