'Forging' is one of those crafts that played an important role in the warfare of all nations. Today, the blacksmith also has a well-founded reputation for his collaborative and international stance. 200 blacksmiths from all over the world brought this 26-panel peace monument to Langemark-Poelkapelle in September 2016.
The forging event 'Ypres2016' was an important international forging event that was the brainchild of Luc Vandecasteele of the Craftsmen's Guild of Forges of Belgium ( ASG) in collaboration with blacksmiths from BABA (British Artist Blacksmith Association) and an international group of forging assistants. The project was sponsored by many companies and also the city of Ypres gave permission for the event to take place in Ypres. The event was part of the century commemoration of the First World War in Flanders.
The main purpose of the project was to create a contemporary cenotaph to commemorate all the victims of this conflict.
The 11, 5-tonne cenotaph, which after its inauguration on 5 November 2016 was renamed a peace memorial, consists of a dramatic but simple piece of steel containing a negative/positive image of a single poppy. The poppy is therefore the internationally recognisable symbol of the commemoration. The negative part represents all the victims, the positive part the hope for a better future that grows out of their sacrifice. At the basis of this central part lies a field of 2016 hand forged poppies, rising out of the Flemish mud. These were forged by blacksmiths from all over the world. One poppy is white. It represents all soldiers who were executed by their own troops as punishment for desertion, cowardice etc....
The finished peace monument with its poppies is surrounded by 26 panels arranged in a zigzag pattern, similar to the arrangement of the trenches. These panels were designed by renowned international master blacksmiths and reflect the designers' insight into war. These panels were forged during the event by teams of volunteer forgers. This collaboration took place in an excellent atmosphere of friendship. In this way, beautiful and meaningful panels were always created. The meaning that was given to the panel by each master blacksmith can be found further in this brochure.
The steel plate and its processing, as well as the concrete base were made possible with the support of the municipality of Langemark-Poelkapelle and the many companies, which can be found in the accompanying list. During the event everything was set up on the Market place of Ypres. After the event in Ypres the steel plate, the hand forged poppies and the 26 stainless treated panels were brought to the field next to the German military cemetery. The municipality of Langemark-Poelkapelle offered this symbolic place for the placement of the peace monument.
Terrence Clark, designer of the monument states: 'In past wars, works of art and utensils made of metal were melted down into weapons. With this project we are turning it around as a tribute to all those involved'.
Ypres 2016 - Turning swords into ploughshares.
The Children’s Poppy Wreaths at the Peace Monument, Langemark-Poelkapella and at the Menin Gate, YPRES. Designers: Robert Smith, England, Luc Vandecasteele, Belgium and Thomas Jackowski, France. The principal aim was to get children involved in the event and it was decided that they should forge Poppies that were similar but smaller than those produced for the Poppy Cenotaph now called the Peace Monument. The first trial Children’s Poppies were forged in Bath, England and Farbus, France. When the process and tooling was deemed successful we took the Children’s Poppy Forge on the road around Europe. More children forged Poppies at events in Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy and Wales, at all these events we were heartened to have received so much support and enthusiasm for the commemorative project. The number of children that were keen to be involved was very satisfying and we produced more poppies than we ever thought possible. The decision was taken to make the poppies into a wreath which would be displayed at the monument. The Wreath represents Remembrance and the Poppies Rebirth as poppies are usually the first flowers to grow out of damaged and impoverished soil. However by the end of the event we had enough poppies to make three wreaths. The design concept was for the poppies to be growing up through barbed wire similar to that used in the defences of the WW1 trenches. This was to symbolise rebirth through the enthusiasm of youth after the trauma and destruction of war.
Wreaths One and Two act as ‘Gate Guardians’ to the Peace Monument, flanking on the left and right sides of the path that leads up to the monument from the car park.
Wreath One was assembled in the workshop of Luc Vandecasteele before the event in Ypres and it was first shown to the public at a Blacksmiths Event in Kolbermoor, Germany. It also had the honour of being paraded by the blacksmiths from the Market Square to the Menin Gate at Ypres and laid at the Last Post Ceremony there on the 5 September 2016. This wreath contained poppies made by children from England, Wales, France and Germany.
Wreath Two was assembled at the event in Ypres and contained poppies made by children from Belgium, England, Germany, Italy and Scotland.
Wreath Three is the largest of the three wreaths and was assembled after the event in the workshop of Thomas Jackowski in France. The wreath is displayed on the intersection of the, Menenstraat, Kiplinglaan and Hoornwerk streets over the bridge from the Menin Gate at Ypres. This wreath contains only poppies made by children from Ypres Schools who had forged their poppies at the event held in the Grand Market Square (Grote Markt) Ypres. More poppies were forged at the event than we could put into one wreath and it was decided to make a posy of three poppies from each school that forged with us and to present it back to the school children that made them. Each posy has a brass engraved tag which identifies it to the school that forged them. These posies were individually presented to the schools on 6 December 2016. Many Blacksmiths from around the world helped the children forge their poppies at the numerous events that took place, these blacksmiths both men and women came from the following countries: Australia, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Wales. We would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all those who took part in the event and to all those who sponsored us with their time and materials, without them it would not have been possible to achieve what were were able to do.