Hooghe is 4 km east of Ieper town centre on the Meenseweg (N8), connecting Ieper to Menen (As in Menin Gate). From Ieper town centre the Meenseweg is located via Torhoutstraat and right onto Basculestraat. Basculestraat ends at a main crossroads, directly over which begins the Meenseweg.
Hooghe is pronounced more akin to Hoe-ge than Hoo-ge or Huge.
The British spelling is Hooge and you will see that on the cemetery as well as in the title of the museum.
After about 3.5 km, as you come up a hill, you will see the Hooge Chapel Museum on your left and the CWGC Hooge Crater Cemetery on the right.
A little further along on the left is the modern Hooghe Château — a hotel. The original château was situated behind its current location.
There is ample parking in the area including within the château grounds.
In April 1915 the Germans had used the first, large scale, gas attacks against French and Canadian soldiers near Sint Juliaan directly to the north of Hooge. Now, as a retaliation to the explosion of the Hooge Mine in July of that year, the Germans were to strike back with something potentially more frightening.
Gas could be neutralised, to an extent, with gas masks but what could you do against jets of burning fuel ?
The mine at Hooge had been detonated by the British on 19th July 1915 and the position taken and held.
Note that the mine was within the hotel grounds and not, despite its shape, within the cemetery.
The fighting for the mine crater meant that the front line came up from the south across the road and into the current hotel car park. It now went around the back of the garden (with its trenches and craters) and the chapel museum before heading north again. This layout left the British troops defending the remains of the stables (just to the left of the car park) in a very exposed position as they had an open left flank.
The crater was now to be the backdrop for the deployment of a new weapon by the Germans. The French had already become acquainted with the German Flammenwerfen ; a machine which consisted of a cylinder of fuel, strapped to a soldier. A walking petrol pump if you would. A soldier ignited the fuel which could then be fired in jets of up to twenty-five metres.
Not the safest of weapons to be carrying but one which wreaked havoc amongst the enemy. It would not be long before the Allies were using similar contraptions and the British created a veritable dragon of a beast at Mametz for the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
The British Official History describes how :
The sector had an evil reputation for being subject to incessant sniping and bombing, besides trench-mortaring and shell fire…
On the night of the 29th/30th July a relief took place in the British trenches ; something that the Germans could not possibly have failed to hear and yet they remained ominously quiet.
Even when the new arrivals threw a few grenades into the German trenches, in places a matter of a few metres away there was no reaction. The night seemed to be passing in taught silence.
For those not familiar with the units, the Rifle Brigade is a regiment made up of battalions. In similar fashion the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) is also a regiment. Do not be confused by their titles of Brigade and Corps.
Then, at 0315 hours on 30th July the Germans blew up what little remained of the stables and the 8th Rifle Brigade holding the area around the crater were subjected to an onslaught by the Germans deploying Flamethrowers.
The sky turned red as powerful jets of fuel were sprayed across the front trenches. At the same time the sector was submerged by a hail of fire from every available weapon in the Germans’ armoury. The surprise was complete and the Riflemen were overwhelmed or forced back.
The Germans now set about consolidating their position rather than trying to follow through and increase their gains. They did however turn their attention to the men of the 7th KRRC who had been partnering the position with the Riflemen. The KRRC soon found themselves attacked from both rear and front as a second attack was launched westwards by the Germans. The British were in danger of being trapped like the filling of a sandwich.
Counter attacks by the British amounted to very little and 7th KRRC were forced to retire into the northern edge of Sanctuary Wood (on the far side of the main road — towards the Canadian monument). The line was held but for the moment Hooge Château and crater were in the hands of the Germans.
The front line was almost back to where it had been before the detonation of the mine. It was now back across the main road where it ran westwards to about the modern CWGC cemetery where it turned northwards again.
The British Staff realised that it would not be possible to regain their lost ground in a haphazard manner and so they went about carefully planning and coordinating an attack which would have a limited objective : retaking Hooge. Like so many of these places around Ieper it may not look much but the German possession of the village gave them a tremendous advantage for observing the British Lines.
You only need to stand on the main road outside the hotel and look down the hill to realise how much of a prize possession this was.
Now that the war was just over a year old the British soldier were trialling — a tin hat. Up until then they had been wearing forage caps !
In deceptive operations, units as far away as Boesinge, to the west of Ieper and in touch with French units as well as those to the south of Hooge created new jumping off trenches or laid down preliminary bombardments — all to confuse the Germans as to the real intentions of the assault.
At 0245 hours a short but heavy barrage was laid down on the German positions. Half an hour later it stopped and the British troops who had been crawling out into no-man’s land rushed the German defences. On the right, in front of the 18th Brigade, there was up to about 450 metres between the two sides but on the left (16th Brigade’s front) this quickly dwindled down to fifty metres or so).
It was for 2nd Durham Light Infantry to come out of Sanctuary wood to the south of the main road and attack the crater.
They made very good progress taking the crater very swiftly, aided by the complete surprise that they had and a secondary bombardment which was now falling behind the German front line, preventing them from being able to bring up reserves for a counter attack.
The attack had cost the Durham’s a third of their strength in casualties, but the crater was taken and a weak point in the Allied line re-secured.