Last night I was looking at some wonderful photographs of Ypres taken in the middle of November, 1914-the Cloth Hall in flames, the Cathedral in ruins. I don't know how it is, but ever since I landed in France my one ambition has been to see Ypres. Somehow there is no place that appeals to the imagination to anything like the same extent, for there is no place where, with regard to its former and its present condition, you can say with the same truth: "Look upon this picture, and on this." Well, to-day I was privileged to catch my first glimpse of the place. I had to go over to Poperinghe in a car. It was a lovely afternoon, and in the light of the sinking sun the flat countryside took on a beauty it is usually far from having. Suddenly between two clumps of trees, across the great pastures, I caught sight of three towers about five miles away. It was Ypres, that "sweet city of the dreaming spires," Ypres, the city of the dead, where, as Bright would say, you can hear the beating of wings of the Angel of Death…

At last we drove into the town itself. Just at first it did not produce the impression on me that I expected, for much if the town is still inhabited, many of the original twenty thousand inhabitants still live there, shops are open, civilians and soldiers are in the streets, ambulances and forage carts move about, there is a general feeling of life about the place. But when you enter the Grande Place you realise something of what has befallen the town. For it was the Grande Place and the buildings which stood in it, which were the glory of Ypres. The Cloth Hall and the Cathedral were the Houses of Parliament and the Westminster Abbey of the old Flemish city. But it is a Westminster Abbey in ruins, and Houses of Parliament without roof or windows or doors or ceiling. It is not a question of a shell hole here and there-the whole place has simply been smashed to pieces and gutted by fire. It is one of the unpardonable things that the Germans have done. There have been good military reasons for much of their destructiveness. In other cases it has been unintentional and incidental. But modern gunnery does not hit a thing like the Cloth Hall of Ypres by mistake. For two months, when there was still a chance of their taking the place, the Cloth Hall was untouched. Then came the great fight at the end of October, culminating in the attack of the Prussian Guard in the second week of November, under the eyes of the Kaiser himself. It failed and the Huns slowly and methodically, ohne Hast und ohne Rast, just blew the glorious buildings to bits.

William Boyd, With a Field Ambulance at Ypres (Toronto: The Musson Book Company Limited, 1916), pp. 47-50.