Located in the Operationsgebiet and close to the front, Staden formed an important part of the German line and contained various trench complexes and POW camps.
On Schuwe Maandag, most residents of Staden, Westrozebeke and Oostnieuwkerke evacuated their homes. A few days later, a first wave of civilians returned to their destroyed village. They were followed by an increasing number of refugees who had fled the front region (Jonkershove, Langemarck, Merkem, ...).
Two hundred inhabitants of Westrozebeke who had stayed behind were forced to leave their homes towards the end of January 1915. Most of them relocated to Roeselare. From that point on, the village of Westrozebeke served exclusively as a resting place for German soldiers. The church was repurposed as a military hospital; later a horse stable. To avoid further French and British artillery attacks on the church, it was pre-emtively demolished by the Germans.
Prisoners in Staden were forced to construct military fortifications in the spring of 1916.
During the Third Battle of Ypres, the municipalities of Westrozebeke, Moorslede, Slijpskapelle and Dadizele were a stone’s throw away from the front lines. The villages were completely destroyed. In the summer of 1917, the large influx of wounded soldiers was accommodated in the local school, which was converted into a field hospital. In the weeks following the gas attack, a staggering number of injured German soldiers flooded the town. As a result, the military hospital in the local monastery became overcrowded, forcing the Germans to install more hospitals in school buildings, in the church and in a castle nearby.
After the German Spring Offensive in 1918, the front line shifted and peace in Staden was restored. The frequency of shootouts decreased and inhabitants received permission to return to their homes.
The Stadenberg played an important role in the final offensive. Its flanks were heavily disputed territory, especially in the vicinity of the Staden castle. The battle’s death toll was high, but the Allied forces eventually managed to recapture the Stadenberg from the Germans. Shortly after, the village of Staden was liberated with help from the French army.
The village was in ruins after the war, and it was a long time before most of its inhabitants returned.
Photo: collection Johan Delbecke, Roeselare