Pool of Peace

The Spanbroekmolen (Kruisstraat - Wijtschate) of the Deconinck family, towers high above the ridge of Wijtschate and Messines. When German troops set fire to the mill in October 1914, August and his brother fled to France. The strategic high position was fiercely contested and in January 1916 British tunnelers began to undermine the old mill site. On June 7, 1917, the day dawned. At 3:10 in the morning, 19 British mines exploded under the 'Messines Ridge'. At the Spanbroek mill the explosion went up just seconds too late due to enemy sabotage, while the rush was already underway. In the nearby cemetery you can find the graves of the too zealous Northern Irish boys. Silent witnesses of the biggest explosion ever in Belgium.

In 1929, Tubby Clayton organised yet another pilgrimage to the Ypres Salient. After enjoying the view of Mount Kemmel, a small group hiked back to Ypres via Sint Elooi. It was then at sunset that Tubby got the idea to buy the crater of Sint Elooi. He immediately launches an appeal in The Times with the caption "A Pool of Peace: the last crater at St. Eloi." In his plea to make it a pool of peace for posterity, Tubby refers to "a pool of peace, where the wrath of man might be raised to the glory of God."

Back in the UK, the secretary of a wealthy oil baron, Paul Slessor reads the call and calls in his boss. This is Lord Wakefield of Hyth, the then owner of Castrol Oil. Wakefield wants to buy the crater and sends Slessor to Ypres to settle the matter. When Slessor goes to make inquiries on the spot on behalf of Wakefield, the advice of the British war graves service, the Imperial War Graves Commission, is also sought. However, they soon suggest the Spanbroek mill as a better alternative. After long and difficult negotiations, Wakefield purchases plots of land on which the crater is located from 6 different owners. On April 1, 1933, he sold the crater for a symbolic franc to the non-profit organisation Talbot House, the current owner.

The crater, known from the beginning as the Pool of Peace, was protected as a monument on June 2, 1992. Soldiers who fought here may never have suspected that years after the catastrophic explosion, the area would become an oasis of peace and tranquillity. Nature has done a magnificent job of healing the scar of war.