A motte castle with wide moats appears in the dense Teerling forest in the early Middle Ages. After years of decay, it falls into oblivion. The surrounding forest is converted into farmland. However, the motte itself is not excavated. So in 1914, a small forest is still visible. We are now standing in front of the so-called ‘Berlin Wood‘. The medieval motte with moat still lies in this private wood. It is one of the few pre-war elements to survive the devastation of 1917.
During the war
During the war, one of the most tragic episodes of the Battle of Passchendaele took place here. On 4 October 1917, the New Zealand division manages to capture ‘s Graventafel. On 12 October, the division prepares to take Belle Vue and then the northern part of Passchendaele. This is on a height where the Flandern I and Flandern II positions meet.
They attack from Berlin Wood, among other places. In front of them is the Ravebeek Valley: a soggy swamp littered with barbed wire. In heavy rain and wind, the New Zealanders try to break through, despite machine guns blasting them from above. It will be a bleak day in New Zealand history. Soldiers get stuck in the mud. In less than four hours, 2,700 losses are counted, including 845 killed. The front here moves forward less than 400 metres.
After this tragedy, the division is relieved by Canadian divisions. With great difficulty and heavy losses, they manage to cross the Ravebeek Valley between 26 and 30 October. Passchendaele is taken by them on 6 November. Four days later, after a final attempt to make progress, the offensive is abandoned.