Last modified: 2007-12-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: heuvelland | star: 8 points (yellow) |
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Municipal flag of Heuvelland - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 23 June 2006
The municipality of Heuvelland (8,177 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 9,424 ha) is located
south of Poperinge and Ieper, on the border with France. The municipality of Heuvelland was formed
in 1976 by the merging of the former municipalities of Dranouter, Kemmel, Loker,
Nieuwkerke (in French, Neuve-Eglise), Westouter, Wijtschate and
Wulvergem and of the village of De Klijte, part of the former municipality
of Renigelst (mostly incoporated to Poperinge).
Heuvelland means "hilly country" in Dutch, the hills being some of the famous Flemish "mounts": Kemmelberg (159 m a.s.l.), Scherpenberg and Rodeberg (143 m a.s.l.; in French, Mont Rouge; lit., the red mount).
The villages forming Heuvelland are today peaceful rural villages and
it is difficult to imagine that this area was completely destroyed
during the First World War, being a strategic part in the Salient of
Ieper. From October 1914 to October 1918, the small Belgian army,
supported by more numerous French and British troops, opposed the
German army in the Yser line; the aim of the Germans was to reach the
northern coast of France and to suppress the resupplying in troops and
ammunitions from the ports of Calais and Dunkirk. The central line of
the Flemish mounts (Mont Noir in France, Rodeberg, Scherpenberg,
Kemmelberg and some smaller hills) was a strategic part of the defense
line set up around Ieper.
The first German offensive was launched in October-November 1914. Outnumbering the allied forces, the Germans invaded significant areas east and north of Ieper, but were stopped by the flood of the Yser organized by the allies. South of Ieper, the Germans seized on 1 November the hill of Witjschate-Mesen, but they failed to seize the strategically more important higher hills, including the Kemmelberg; they could not enter Ieper either. During the battle of Wijtschate on 2 November, the unexperienced Bavarian 16th Reserve Infantry regiment lost some 2,900 out of its 3,500 soldiers. Among the survivors was Caporal Adolf Hitler. The front stabilized in December. The offensive caused the death of 50,000 British and 75,000 German soldiers.
The second offensive on the so-called Western front took place in April-May 1915. The Germans used toxic gas on a large scale around Ieper. In spite of the panic caused by this new weapon and the support of aircrafts, the Germans were stopped a few kilometers from Ieper. The village of Wulvergem was submitted to a gas attack on the night of 29 to 30 April 1916, but the 3rd and 24th Divisions were able to repell the Germans.
In summer-automn 1917, the allied forces counter-attacked on all the frontline. On 7 June 1917, the allied took back the hill of Witjschate-Mesen, hold by the Germans since Novemeber 1914. The frontline moves westwards and away from the villages of the Heuvelland. The allied conquered a stripe of land of 8 km in width after the death of 271,710 German and 448,614 allied soldiers.
In spring 1918, the Germans launched a new offensive against Ieper from the south. Nieuwkerke was seized on 1 April, as were Wijtschate and Mesen on 12 April. On 25 April, the battle of Kemmelberg was lost by the French army, with the death of thousands of soldiers. It was the first time since the beginning of the war that the Germans could see Ieper. During that period, the villages of Heuvelland were completely destroyed, including the abandoned village of Westouter.
All the villages were rebuilt from scratch after the liberation of Westhoek, obtained after the final offensive launched by the allied (including the Americans) in August 1918.
There are several war cemetaries and monuments commemorating the First World War in Heuvelland, as well as a few restored sites, such as the German bunkers of Bayernwald (lit., "the Bavarian Wood") and the British bunkers of Lettenberg.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 23 June 2006
The municipal flag of Heuvelland is horizontally divided
black-yellow-green with a yellow eight-pointed star in the green
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 10 February 1986, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 10 December 1986 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 3 December 1987.
Green symbolizes the rural environment of Heuvelland, whereas black and yellow recall Flanders. The star symbolizes the eight components of the municipality.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 23 June 2006