History and WW1

THE HISTORIC PALINGBEEK

Welcome to the historic domain of the Golf and Country Club De Palingbeek. There has
been a manor house on this site since the Middle Ages. The original building- known as
the Devil’s Lair, because of its reputation as a centre for local banditry - has long since
disappeared. Many of its successors have also come to a violent end, most notably
during the Great War of 1914-18, when the imposing chateau of the family Mahieu
- known to the British as the White Chateau and to the Germans as “das Bayernschloss”
- was razed to the ground. The existing clubhouse was also the scene of fierce fighting
during the Second World War in 1940.
Out of respect for the many soldiers of all lands who died near this spot during these
terrible conflicts, a number of the most interesting historical sites on the course have
been marked with panels. These panels can generally be found on or next to the tees
of the relevant holes and refer back to this brochure, where more information relating to
the site in question can be found.
We hope that you enjoy a pleasant - and educational - round of golf!

Welcome to the historic domain of the Golf and Country Club De Palingbeek. There has been a manor house on this site since the Middle Ages. The original building- known asthe Devil’s Lair, because of its reputation as a centre for local banditry - has long since disappeared. Many of its successors have also come to a violent end, most notably during the Great War of 1914-18, when the imposing chateau of the family Mahieu- known to the British as the White Chateau and to the Germans as “das Bayernschloss”- was razed to the ground. The existing clubhouse was also the scene of fierce fighting during the Second World War in 1940. Out of respect for the many soldiers of all lands who died near this spot during these terrible conflicts, a number of the most interesting historical sites on the course have been marked with panels. These panels can generally be found on or next to the teesof the relevant holes and refer back to this brochure, where more information relating to the site in question can be found.We hope that you enjoy a pleasant - and educational - round of golf!

 

Hole 1:

WHITE CHATEAU OR “DAS BAYERNSCHLOSS”

Just beyond the woods to the right of this hole lie the last remains of the once-imposing Chateau Mahieu, built during the first years of the century but destroyed completely as a result of almost ceaseless bombardment between 1914 and 1918.

During the war this renaissance-style building was known to the British as White Chateau (because of the white sandstone of which it was made). The Germans, however, referred to it as “das Bayernschloss” (in honour of the 2nd Bavarian Corps, which captured the chateau in November 1914 and continued to serve in the sector until 1917).

The chateau remained in German hands until 7 June 1917, when it was stormed by troops of the 6th en 7th Battalions of the London Regiment. 80 men of the 8th Company of the 61st German Infantry Regiment emerged from the cellars to be taken prisoner, but a smaller group under Lieutnant Hennig chose to make a desperate last stand on what is now the 18th fairway. This brave group was wiped out to a man.

 

Hole 2:

SPOIL BANK AND THE IRON BRIDGE

In 1863 work was begun to dig a canal between the towns of Ieper and Komen. To run the canal through the Hollebeke ridge it was necessary to dig to a considerable depth - 17 metres. This resulted in large amounts of excavated earth, which were thrown up on either side of the workings to create great embankments. The embankment on the southern side of the canal - along which the 2nd and 16th fairways now run - was known during the Great War by the British as the Spoil Bank. In June 1917 it was the scene of heavy fighting between the 21st and 23rd Battalions of the London Regiment and the 9th Company of the 61st German Regiment.

The canal project was fraught with difficulty from the start, due largely to the mobile nature of the blue clay sub-soil, which caused tunnel after tunnel to collapse. Repeated efforts were made to bring the work to a successful conclusion, culminating in a final attempt begun in 1909. As part of this scheme an elegant iron bridge on high pillars was constructed over the canal (at the point were the path currently runs in front of the 2nd tee). However, the dreaded blue clay was destined to have the final word and in 1913 the bridge first buckled and then collapsed - a portent, perhaps, of what was to follow.

Hole 3:

OUR LORD’S TREE

To the left of the path between holes 2 and 3 - some 50 metres in the wood - stands one of the few surviving trees from the years prior to the Great War of 1914-1918.

This great oak was probably planted around 1830, during the creation of the chateau park. Like the remainder of the park, it was blasted beyond recognition during the fighting in 1917 but after the war it sprung miraculously back to life.

During the fighting on the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940 it again suffered a direct hit from a shell, snapping the trunk at about the height of a man from the ground. From this new wound sprouted the present tree, with its remarkable shape. Although white nails and tape have been added for clarity, the tree contains indentations, which correspond to the form of the crucified Christ.

Popular tradition has it that two Scottish soldiers, killed in 1940, were buried at the foot of the tree. A simple cross now marks the site of their former grave.

 

Hole 8:

PANORAMA

The orientation panel on the elevated Men’s Tee, with its panoramic view over the plains of Northern France, demonstrates clearly the strategic significance of the ridges on which the Palingbeek domain stands.

It was in these fields, near Jardine’s Farm, that Sepoy Khududad Khan of the 129th Baluchi Regiment won the first Victoria Cross awarded to an Indian soldier during the Great War.

On 30 October 1914 Khan was fighting with a machine gun detachment, which was seeking to hold back the massed onslaughts of the numerically superior 2nd Bavarian Corps. When all his comrades were killed Khan fought on alone, until, severely wounded, he fell unconscious and his post was overrun. The advancing Germans left him for dead, but after dark he regained consciousness and dragged himself 600 yards through enemy held territory to rejoin his unit, holding out in the grounds of the chateau.

On june 1917 the road to Hollebeke was the final objective for the 15th Battalion of the London Regiment (also known as the Prince of Wales Civil Service Rifles). The regiment reached the road with comparative ease and few casualties. Encouraged by this success, a strong patrol under Sergeant Steele and Corporal Freeman set out to try and capture a nearby farm. However, this time the Germans were lying in wait and Steele and Freeman were both shot through the head and killed. Their comrades withdrew hastily back to the road and dug themselves in.

It was also across these same fields that troops of the 18th Battalion, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps attacked on 31 July 1917, the opening day of the notorious Passchendaele offensive. In spite of heavy fighting, during which they lost 154 officers and men, the Rifles failed to capture their objectives around Forret Farm.

 

Hole 9:

UNDERGROUND BUNKER

This tee stands on an underground German bunker, part of the German reserve position known as the “Höhenlinie” (High Line). This trench - known to the British as Oak Reserve and running the length of the 9th fairway - was captured by units of the 7th London Regiment on 7 June 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Messines. The battalion diary records that resistance was generally light but that one stubborn machine gun team in a bunker - perhaps this one - had to be bombed into submission.

 

Hole 10:

GERMAN BUNKER

On the left of this hole lies the remnants of a German bunker known as the “Backofen” (Bakers’ Oven). It was from around this position on 7 June 1917 - the opening day of the Battle of Messines - that machine gun teams under Lieutnant Korfer from the 12th Company of the German 61st Infantry Regiment attempted to hold back the advance of the 47th London Division. Korfer and his men were eventually outflanked by troops from the 7th London Regiment advancing along the edge of the Palingbeek forest and were forced to retire in the direction of the old chateau stables (now clubhouse). Lieutnant Korfer was never seen again.

 


Hole 11:

MONUMENT MAHIEU

In the second half of the 19th century, the domain on which the present golf course stands became property of the family Mahieu-Ferry, wealthy industrialists from the town of Armentières, France. In 1901 the family pulled down the existing redbrick chateau and replaced it with an imposing white sandstone residence. Legend has it that Colonel Ferry, a staff officer in the French Army and the father of Madame Mahieu, advised his daughter against such a move. “Cette terre appelle la guerre” (this country is a magnet for war). His prophecy was dramatically fulfilled between 1914 and 1918, when the chateau was razed to the ground. The family itself also suffered heavily during the war years and the last surviving sons - Auguste and Michel Mahieu - were both killed in action: Auguste at Bois de Caures in February 1916 and Michel on the Somme in May 1918. A monument commemorating these brave young men stands alongside the path, which runs between the tees of this hole. After the war, the domain passed into the hands of the Cossart family, where it remained until it was purchased by the golf club in 1988.

 

 

Hole 12:

OAK DUMP CEMETERY

Oak Dump was a storage depot for supplies (barbed wire, sand bags, etc.) needed by the soldiers for life in the trenches and for most of the war it lay between the British first and second lines. The cemetery was created by fighting units during the period July - September 1917 and contains the graves of 109 soldiers from the United Kingdom and 2 soldiers from Australia. The majority of these men were killed by shellfire or sniping, whilst holding the newly won German positions in the chateau grounds, following the Battle of Messines. 59 of them belonged to the London Regiment (47th Division). In March 1918 a sap opposite the cemetery was blown in and 7 men of the 108th Siege Battery were killed in it. Their bodies were found in 1927 and buried in Oak Dump. The remains of a cavalry officer, killed near Hollebeke in 1914, were also added after the war.


 

Hole 13:

TRIANGULAR WOOD

To the right of the Ladies Tee stand the last remnants of Triangular Wood - a small copse, which marked the approximate position of the British front line during the period November 1914 - June 1917. During a surprise attack near this spot on 14 February 1915, units from the 2nd Bavarian Corps captured a section of the British trenches, known as “O” and “P” trenches. The 2nd Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment was immediately ordered to retake the lost positions. However, because the trenches on either side of the area to be recaptured were still held by other British troops, the Surreys were specifically forbidden from firing their rifles, for fear of hitting their comrades. Effectively unarmed - apart from their useless bayonets - the Surreys advanced bravely up the mud-covered slope beyond the 12th green to meet their fate. The result was a small but brutal massacre. Within a few minutes the Surreys lost 40 men killed and 81 wounded and by the end of the day the battalion - which had gone into action nearly 500 strong - could only muster 2 officers and 25 other ranks. Such was the nature of trench warfare on the Western Front.

 

Hole 15:

GERMAN MINE SHAFT

The plaque set into the fairway of this hole (at approximately 200 metres from the green) marks the site of an old German mine shaft. It is not clear if the galleries leading from this shaft were ever used but in general the blue clay sub-soil of this region offered excellent prospects for the exponents of mine warfare.

The clearest example of this was given on 7 June 1917, when British opened their offensive against the Messines Ridge by firing a chain of 19 mines between Hill 60 and Ploegsteert Wood. The resulting explosions - involving nearly 400,000 kg of high explosive - could be felt as far away as London.

Craters from earlier mine fighting in 1915 and 1916 may still be viewed at St. Elooi (just before the end of the Eekhofstraat) and at the Bluff (adjacent to the fairway of hole 16 but on the further bank of the Ieper-Komen canal).

 

Hole 18:

BRITISH OBSERVATION POST

In the woods to the right of this hole (over the corner of the dog-leg) there is a British observation post. It was built on the ruins of the old White Chateau, following its capture by troops of the 47th London Division on the opening day of the Battle of Messines (7 June 1917). Its ribbed construction - from the elephant sheeting in which the concrete was cast - is typical of British bunkers of this kind. Its narrow peephole gives an excellent view over the old German lines.

 


 

CLUBHOUSE

The present-day clubhouse was built during the 1930’s, on the site of what had previously been the stables of the old chateau Mahieu. These stables were overrun on 7 June 1917 - the opening day of the Battle of Messines - by men of the 6th Battalion, the London Regiment, where they captured 2 German officers and 61 men of the 61st and 141st Infantry Regiments.

The building was also the scene of heavy fighting in May 1940, during the British retreat of Dunkirk. Troops from the 54th German Infantry Regiment stormed the building, forcing the defenders of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Scots Fusiliers either to surrender or retreat. There was grenade fighting in what is now the bar area and a number of Scots were cut down by artillery and machine gunfire as they withdrew over the 1st, 10th and 14th fairways.

 

 

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders Felds the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row.

That mark our place, and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt down, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, anal now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe :

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch ; be Yours to hold it high,

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields

 

John McCRAE

3 mei 1915