Poperinge or simply ‘Pop’ as the Tommies referred to it is a village about eight miles west of Ieper in West Flanders. The region is famous for growing hops.
During World War One the town was one of only two in Belgium not under German occupation. It was used to billet British troops and also provided a safe area for field hospitals. Known familiarly as “Pop”, it was just behind the front line and formed an important link for the soldiers and their families, especially through the rest house known as Talbot House (or “Toc-H“). A grim reminder of that time remains within the town hall, where two death cells are preserved, and outside in the courtyard, where there is a public execution post used by firing squads.
Another reminder is the location of a number of military cemeteries on the outskirts of the town with the graves of Canadian, British, Australian, French, German, US servicemen and men of the Chinese Labour Corps. One of these is Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery for soldiers who had been wounded near Ypres and later died in the large Allied casualty clearing stations located in the area.
A new statue on the market place brings Eliane Cossey or “Ginger” back to Poperinge. Ginger was a red haired girl that worked at the La Poupée café and had a mesmerising effect on many soldiers. An initiative that bring “Little Paris” back to life.
Willie Redmond MP wrote in his war diary about Ginger’s: “A cheery spot it is, bedecked with the flags of the Allied nations. All the appointments of the place ara good: clean cloths upon the little tea-tables, little bunches of flowers here and there, and altogether an air of brightness and comfort about. Very grateful indeed to eyes weary of the drab dismalness of trench and hut. In the hours of the afternoon the tea-room is crowded with officers from various units, and it is of interest to observe that they represent very often branches of the army in the field from almost every corner of the Empire.“