Encyclopedia - Poperinghe
An ancient Belgian town situated south of the province of West Flanders, Poperinghe was the primary military centre for British forces located in Flanders, just under 10km west of Ypres (itself formerly a bitter trade rival). Its population in 1904 was placed at 11,680.
With Allied forces commandeering the town as a base from the early days of the war - although for a brief spell from August until 15 October 1914 it was in German hands - a sprawling array of camps, hospitals and supply depots sprung up around the town.
Also located in Poperinghe was the famous soldiers' rest place (from December 1915) popularly known as 'Toc H' run by Tubby Clayton, Talbot House (and which still operates as a museum today). The town quickly established itself, sited as it was behind the Ypres Salient, as a favoured recreational area for resting soldiers.
The town remained in Allied control from October 1914 until the armistice, one of few free towns in Belgium, although it suffered frequent artillery bombardment and came close to falling once more into German hands during the latter's Spring Offensive of 1918.
The town is chiefly renowned today for its hops and lace. Poperinghe New Military Cemetery - a small military cemetery - unusually contains the burials of no fewer than 17 Allied soldiers who were executed for various military offences (invariably desertion).
A respirator was a gas mask in which air was inhaled through a metal box of chemicals.
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