Peter Dekens: Shaky Ground
Peter Dekens’ earliest memory of the First World War dates back to 1979, aged 12. One of his cousins found an old, unexploded bombshell and tried to dismantle it. The explosive went off and he succumbed to his injuries later that same evening.
Driving along the former front line in Ypres (Belgium) now it’s nearly impossible to imagine that one of the most horrific wars of all time was waged here one hundred years ago.
The traces of the Great War have been almost completely erased from the landscape, over the course of decades, hundreds of bunkers were removed. To this very day, human remains and projectiles are still found every time someone sticks a spade into the soil. Somewhere beneath the sod, tens of thousands of missing soldiers are presumed to lie undiscovered, along with hundreds of thousands of unexploded shells.
An estimated thirty per cent of the 1.5 billion bombshells fired during the First World War never went off. Some of the people who live in the area have developed a sixth sense for this hidden history: where tens of thousands of tourists and travellers pass by unknowing, the locals know that the slightest raise or dip in the road could be an indication that war remnants still lie uneasy beneath the earth.