At the picturesque village of Esquelbecq, a small museum keeps the memory of the 1940 Wormnhoudt massacre alive. The barn where the soldiers were executed was rebuilt some years ago, and it's now a not to be missed memorial for all those interested in the Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo.
From 2 €
Duration : 1 hour
LA PLAINE AU BOIS MUSEUM
During Operation Dynamo, the British regiments stationed in the villages of Wormhout and Ledringhem were ordered to delay the progress of the Germans towards the coast and to fight until they ran out of ammunition, thus allowing British and French troops to reach the evacuation beaches and to establish a defensive corridor around the town of Dunkirk.
On May 28, 1940, at 7 am, a fierce battle engaged between the British and German troops, by 4.00pm the SS had completely overrun the position. Having suffered lots of casualties and out of ammunition, the remaining British forces surrendered to the fanatical Nazis of the Infantry Regiment Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, under the command of one of Hitler’s top henchmen, Sepp Dietrich.
Over a hundred men were stripped and herded into a barn. It is believed that 'Haupstumfurher' Wilhelm Mohnke had issued the order that no prisoners were to be taken. 80 British troops and 1 French soldier were executed that day in the barn at La Plaine au bois.
Fifteen British soldiers survived by lying very still or hiding under the bodies of their dead comrades. They were taken prisoner a few days later by the regular German army. For several years, the massacre remained unknown, until some of the survivors of this tragic episode, who were among the British veterans who had come to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Dynamo, went to look for this site of the massacre and told of what they had lived through. Based on these harrowing stories, a local amateur historian Guy Rommelaere, wrote his book titled "The Forgotten Massacre".
In the year 2000, a French-British association acquired the pasture and built a barn identical to the original, as well as a lookout with an orientation table to be able to locate the various elements of that tragic day.
In 2017, the association opened a small museum at the "Maison du Westhoek". One room is dedicated to objects, archives and photographs from donations and the private fund of Mr. Guy Rommelaere. In the second room you can watch a film on the the events that occurred in May-June 1940.
The opening hours are those of Esquelbecq Tourist office: Tuesday to Saturday from 10h to 12h and from 15h to 18h (Thursday afternoon and Sunday closed in low season)
Dates for guided tours for individuals are available at the reception desk of Esquelbecq tourist office.
French and English spoken.
from 2 €
Admission to the museum is € 2 per person
Access to the memorial site is free
Combined guided tours of the Memorial site and the Plaine au bois museum are possible for groups at a rate of 3€ per person. Reservation required at least one month before the date of the visit.