In 1975, while working for NATO in Italy, I traveled to Belgium, hoping to visit the battlefields where Dad had fought. Not knowing that he was completing his book in Pacific Beach at that time, I had no other details to go on than that a battlefield was near Ypres. I headed north on the route towards Ypres, but I was drawn to this cemetery, where I pulled over my 1966 VW van and approached some British soldiers working there. I said, "Gentlemen, do you know where the fighting was in World War I?" They replied that they "weren't no gentlemen" and that they had not seen any round here.
Puzzled and embarrassed, I did not continue the conversation. As an American, I thought "gentleman" was respectful address. Only later did I find out that it was an upper class distinction that the working class weren't comfortable with. Anyway, I didn't find any battlefields, and I didn't find Ypres, even though it was only a mile away! I did tour the countryside and some other cemeteries and went on my way.
In the summer of 2005, Barbara and I drove up the same road. With a strong feeling of recognition, I again drove right into the cemetery. Now I realize, after putting all the evidence of the maps together with information from other sources, that both in 1975 and 2005 I drove into the very location where my father had risked his life in 1918. And it was within a few hundred yards of where I was standing!
View 45 degrees from the face of the pillbox (defining face as looking toward the front)
Although there were many pill boxes in this area during the war, the designers of the cemetery decided to leave this one on the cemetery land as a monument. The local farmers wanted to remove pill boxes and other war rubble in order to reclaim their land, I guess, because this is the only one that we could find.
In any case, this is right in front of the trenches where Dad described his daring raid. If it not THE one, it is within a few hundred yards of the real one. Even the back of the pillbox is blown out, as Dad described. The stone slabs that are resting on top have either collapsed or have been replaced to stabilize it.
The opposite side shows that the height above ground is no more that 2-3 feet. I have examined all sides, compared the description from Dad's story, and found it fits his details well. Behind the pill box there is a U-shaped channel, about 30 feet wide, with the arms facing away from the front, which now is filled with water. Perhaps this U was once a trench, accessible from behind the front lines, which supplied the pillbox with the necessary supplies, personnel, and ammunition.
Access door to the inside. The arch accessing the U of the trench.