Text by Luc Vanacker, Belgium
At Nieuwpoort (‘Nieuport’ in French & English) Lt Edward Wise is an important figure, because he came on land on the 20th of October 1914 to assist the Belgians with some twenty men and three Lewis machine guns in an attempt to recapture a farm (Great Bamburg Farm). He went forward without knowing that the farm was already occupied by the Germans. Belgians tried to warn him, but he must not have understood what they shouted. When he was at about fifty yards from the farm, the Germans opened fire… The HMS Severn, he came from, had already helped the Belgians, since the 18th of October, by shooting at the German advance, guided by a certain Lt. Shoppee from the Belgian headquarters at Veurne (Furnes) thanks to observation from an old tower (as the naval artillery was only used to firing at visible targets, and the dunes obstructed direct view). Thanks to this assistance, the Germans didn’t dare to cross the river at Nieuwpoort, only further south, where they could be stopped by flooding the river Yser valley.
Naval guns and planes as part of the Dover Patrol would remain at the Belgian Westcoast for the rest of the war.
The British in Belgium is more than just Passendale.