Major Henry Beckles Willson was the last Town Major of Ypres (Ieper). He was in command of the legendary ruins in 1919, and was instrumental in the development of Ypres as the focal point of Remembrance and in the creation of The Ypres League.
Beckles Willson was also a fierce opponent of the rebuilding of Ypres, feeling that the horrific losses sustained there by the British Army meant it should always remain a Memorial. He was farsighted in his viewpoints and single-handedly reminded the Royalty and Dignitaries of Europe that the sacrifice should not be forgotten.
In his extremely rare 1920 book, Ypres, The Holy Ground of British Arms Major Willson presented his powerful argument against redevelopment, and presented his vision of the Sacred City of Ypres, by telling all the history of Ypres before and during the Great War. This is a unique perspective on the legendary City. Henry Beckles Willson was born in Montreal in 1869. He was an early Canadian literary type who found his fame, not in Canada, but in the Mother Country. By the end of his life he had written 25 books on a wide variety of subjects and genres, including History, Novels and Memoir.
During the Great War he served under Lord Beaverbrook for a time, then the War Office, finally, just after the Armistice, as the Town Major, overseeing the ruins of Ypres. During the Second World War he was interned in Unoccupied France and died there in 1942. Beckles Willson was one of those lost Victorians, a man of his times, whose generation was eclipsed by the tragedy of the Great War. But he left an important legacy. His vision is felt by all who return to the City to pay Homage to the Fallen of the Great War generation. It is a great pleasure to resurrect this exceptional rare book, Ypres, The Holy Ground of British Arms, written by this forgotten character, a man who played such an critical role in the Ypres we see today.
by H.Becckles Willson