WWI: Profit in the name of lost

Ypres, Belgium, the city to witness the outbreak of the First World War. The first battle which was fought 100 years ago in this city gave the entire world an alarming notification of the massive destruction of the First World War. On having a close look at the city’s beautifully decorated buildings it is very hard to believe that it is the same city which was completely ruined during the Great War.

Ypres was completely in a state of ruin by the year 1919. But as the process of recovering dead bodies from the battle fields were still going on the visitors started to visit the city. The family members and the relatives of the dead soldiers were among the first to visit the city. They were brought to Ypres by St Barnabas Society for free. However, afterwards commercial tours replaced them. Two types of itineraries are offered by Thomas Cook, a commercial tours and travels. The one which is basic is priced nine and a half guineas. And the other package includes the luxury experience which is priced at 35 guineas. And if we convert it into pound then the first package is costing 399 pounds and the other one is costing 1,475 pounds. It appears that the sacrifices by the soldiers have become a source of boosting their profits.

As 2014 is the centenary year for the WWI, people around the world are taking interest in it and they are now also visiting such places of interest and Ypres is also one of them. This tourism is helping the economic growth of  Ypres. As a result of this the local shops of Ypres are trying to make as much profit as they can. If we look at the souvenirs of this city then we can find many examples of such profits. Souvenirs such as T-shirts, mugs, teddy bears, chocolate poppies, hats and most interestingly beer bottles are also sold in the memory of dead soldiers. The label of the beer bottle says: “When opening the bottle, please hold a minute of silence to commemorate those who fell on the battlefield.” Then on T-shirts it’s written “I’m a Battlefield Relic.”

It just appears that people in their way of profit making are exploiting the memory of the dead soldiers. When asked about the ways of profit making by exploiting the memory of the dead war men, Niki Vloeren, a student, says: “We have a right to make a living.” “the past has cast a shadow that won’t be lifted in our lifetimes. Their names liveth for evermore, remember?”

The names of the soldiers on the headstones are getting erased because of its age and wet weather. However, this is no longer a matter of deep concern. This is because the Commonwealth War Grave Commission is efficiently doing the work of replacing 22,000 headstones every year. It takes care of 196 cemeteries around Ypres, the BBC News reports.

In this city several frightening incidents related to the dead soldiers can be also heard. People often talk about half-heard screams in the night, about the dogs which do not go to the corners of fields and they also talk about some strange light which can be found fulgurating in no man’s land. Though all these incidents sounds to be very scary and terrifying but the point is how true are these terror or is this merely another way of attracting tourist to itself so that the ways of profit making may always open to this city of Ypres.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE