Reception area: As soon as he crosses the threshold of the reception area, the visitor becomes part of history. He indeed turns into a war-site tourist, identical to the visitors of the past. Moreover, numerous pieces of debris, buried in the vicinity and regularly surfacing, draw him into the story. Pictures, documents and objects found on the spot highlight all these aspects. An interactive application shows different war sites, amongst which the Trench of Death.
The first floor: On the first floor the visitor is immersed in a chronological four-theme circuit:
- War, invasion and water
The outbreak of the war in Europe, the invasion of Belgium and the Yser battle in October 1914 make up the introduction. Thus informed, the visitor can understand how and why the Trench was constructed in this exact location. Four symbolic pieces of headwear illustrate the presence of different nationalities on Belgian soil in 1914.
- The petrol drums
The Belgian fighters quickly understood that the Germans had no intention of letting go of the petrol drums. Successive attacks failed and the two adversaries fortified their positions. Means of defence are presented in this section of the exhibition. A German machine gun and a pair of Belgian binoculars were part of the arsenal.
- From marker 16 to the Trench of Death
The most important theme is the digging of the trench and the establishment of the position. Bloody scrimmages with German troops, the creation of a breach in the Yser dike and the part played by artillery are highlighted here. Numerous objects, such as uniforms, headwear, weapons and artillery shells, retrace events. The application The Trench of Death Day by Day is also available, on three screens.
- Life and death in the trenches
The last theme broaches the subject of life and death of Belgian soldiers in the Great War trenches. Through interactive applications the visitor is introduced to the soldiers and he can discover more personal aspects of life in the trenches, such as religion, food and friendship. The theme of death is introduced by means of a helmet perforated by a bullet. Some 250 biographies tell the story of Belgian casualties. The Trench of Death victims are finally granted a name and a face.
The second floor: The visitor has a magnificent view over the Horseman’s Redoubt and the Trench of Death. A giant aerial picture covering the floor enables the visitor to visualize the situation in 1917 and to compare past and present-day landscapes. Moreover, through an interactive application, he can locate hotspots. Finally, a large screen presents tens of period aerial pictures, illustrating the conflict-ridden surroundings.
The exterior: After reading up on Trench history, it is now time to discover the site as such. Equipped with the information presented at the centre, the visitor can understand what exactly happened on the premises or how Belgian soldiers were affected by the circumstances of war. Moreover, the German bunker is incorporated into the circuit. It used to be beyond the site’s limits, but is now accessible to the public. This unique remnant of the German trenches really show the proximity of the two camps.