In 1967, "the Order van de Paardevisser" (Order of the Horse Fisherman) of Oostduinkerke organises a marching day for the first time in order to honour the tradition of shrimping on horseback on the one hand and to emphasize the tourist attractions of the Westkust, the western part of the Belgian coast on the other hand. The initiative proves to be a success.

The number of participants grows year after year until the organisers are no longer able to organise the event by using only their own resources. Early 1972, the then chairman Philippart requests the Minister of Defence P. Vanden Boeynants to recieve support from the Armed Forces.

A three-day march "Driedaagse Voettocht van de Westhoek" is organised from 1 to 3 September 1972 in cooperation with the Air Defence Artillery School in Nieuwpoort. The four-day walk, pursuing the current objectives, has been organized since 1973. 1218 participants marched 4 x 32 km during the first edition.

 

Until 1980, the march goes from town to town. As from 1981, start and finish are located in the same town. The silver anniversary of the Four Days of the Yser is celebrated in 1997. There is a 'static show' of military equipment in each of the participating cities and the Engineer Corps builds a pontoon bridge across the Yser making the crossing of it a unique experience.

There is a partial return to traditions in 1998: the reintroduction of two routes between Ieper and Poperinge and the passage over the Kemmelberg (Mount Kemmel). The exposition of military equipment is now set up every year, and the then director invites Flemish celebrities to fire the daily starting shot.

The tradition of the static show is abandoned in the anniversary year of 2002 due to the ever growing number of participants. But parachute jumps and helicopter flights still part of the activities on offer during the Four Days.

In 2003, succesfull changes are introduced for the fifth edition of the Mini Four Days (4 x 16 km). The two separate 8 km routes are replaced a 16 km loop trial within the 32 km route.

2005 is the first year in wich the secretariat counts more than 10.000 different participants. That year, the then director decides to take the walkers during the fourth day underneath the Kemmelberg, passing through an underground command bunker, a Cold War relic wich had been a secret until that day.

In the anniversary year of 2007 (35th edition) a new system for the awarding of medals is introduced. Every anniversary year walkers meeting all conditions are rewarded with a medal with a bar showing the year of participation. For marches between two anniversary editions walkers only receive the bar indicating the year which will be attached to the medal already received.

As we want to develop the Four Days into a family event and make young people acquainted with Defence, we introduce two new distances in 2010.

Along the 8 km route which is well suited to families with small children (even in prams) all kinds of activities are offered, such as bouncy castles, clown acts, children’s face painting, and a free pancake with a drink. The 24 km route is a pleasant way to introduce young people to the armed forces. For those who are aspiring to a career within Defence this distance is a good test of their physical condition.

At this time, our organisation is faced with imposed cutbacks. Consequently, in 2010 the walkers’ transport as well as the preparation and supply of meals in our camps are contracted out.

After a cost-benefit analysis in 2011 our organisation decides to close the camp “Campus de Vierboete” in Nieuwpoort. Further cutbacks require us to cooperate more closely with the participating towns and other walkers clubs. As a result, meals as well as snacks and drinks along the routes are now distributed by volunteers.

 

Evolution of the participants
Four Days of the Yser

 

1973

=>

1.218

 

 

1978

=>

2.609

 

1974

=>

1.661

 

 

1979

=>

2.887

 

1975

=>

1.702

 

 

1980

=>

2.665

 

1976

=>

1.886

 

 

1981

=>

3.144

 

1977

=>

2.558

(5e editie)

 

1982

=>

3.460

(10e editie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1983

=>

3.718

 

 

1988

=>

4.790

 

1984

=>

4.291

 

 

1989

=>

5.326

 

1985

=>

4.085

 

 

1990

=>

4.386

 

1986

=>

4.173

 

 

1991

=>

4.704

 

1987

=>

4.655

(15e editie)

 

1992

=>

5.185

(20e editie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1993

=>

4.963

 

 

1998

=>

4.397

 

1994

=>

4406

 

 

1999

=>

4.912

 

1995

=>

4.070

 

 

2000

=>

5.557

 

1996

=>

4.211

 

 

2001

=>

6.249

 

1997

=>

4.631

(25e editie)

 

2002

=>

8.349

(30e editie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003

=>

9.758

 

 

2008

=>

9.784 

 

2004

=>

8.605

 

 

2009

=> 

9.149

 

2005

=>

10.132

 

 

2010 

=> 

9.405

 

2006

=>

9.232

 

 

2011 

=> 

8.974

 

2007

=>

9.954

(35e editie)

 

2012

=>

9.683

(40e editie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013

=>

9.905

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 => 11.101            
2015 => 9.800            
2016 => 8.700            
2017 => ? (45e editie)