World War One bombs a part of life in Belgium even 100 years on

Fri Oct 24, 2014 5:30am EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop

YPRES Belgium (Reuters) - Pondfarm in western Belgium is used to digging up an unusual crop.

"It's a fairly poor harvest," said Stijn Butaye, 26, as he looked at a haul of 28 World War One shells unearthed with potatoes and beet in the last two weeks and awaiting collection by Belgium's bomb disposal squad.

The 40-hectare (100 acre) Butaye family farm sits where - 100 years ago - advancing German forces pounded British lines, eventually setting up a base with a hospital and an aid station in two large fortified bunkers.

Belgian farmers who returned to the muddied battlefields after the war mostly just filled in the trenches and got back to work.

Butaye's grandfather sought in the 1960s to blow up the German bunkers he despised, but Butaye himself has developed such a love for war memorabilia he has unearthed over the past decade that he has set up his own museum.

It is quite a haul: dozens of bottles, shells, two British rifles, a helmet and, at the entrance, the end section of an early British tank with metal tread and a book signed by visitors from as far away as Canada, South Africa and Australia.

"It is a hobby that has got a bit out of hand," confesses Butaye.

Centenary commemorations this year have spiked international interest particularly in the Ypres area, which saw some of the heaviest fighting and is now dotted with war cemeteries.   Continued...

World War One bullets are seen from a British trench discovered during work to install new sewers in a street near Ypres, October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir