Tuesday, 11 November 2014

All quiet on the Western Front

Today - on the eleventh day of the eleventh month I want to share a trip we made in September, when we took a long awaited guided coach tour with friends to Northern France and Belgium touring the Battlefields and Cemeteries of The Great War. I can't put into words how humbling this trip was and how much about the history of the war we learnt in just four days.






Our tour started in Flanders around the Belgian city of Ypres, where we visited the preserved trenches at Sanctuary Wood Trench Museum, some of the original WW1 trenches still surviving in Flanders. We saw an amazing collection of relics and photos and  were able to walk through many of the trenches.





We then went to the battlefields around Hill 62, one of the most fought over corners of the Ypres area after which we visited the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest British war cemetery in the world with just under 12,000 individual graves and a memorial wall which carries another 33,000 soldiers with no known grave.



I've never seen anything quite like it in all my life - so very humbling


Our day ended in Ypres where we attended the moving Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial.  At 8pm every evening, buglers of the local volunteer fire brigade sound the Last Post. This tradition began in 1928 and, with the exception of the period of the Seond World War when Ypres was occupied, has taken place every night since. The 30,000th occasion for this solemn event takes place on 9th July 2015.


This memorial records another 55,000 soldiers missing in the battles at
Ypres and Passchendaele 




We spent a few hours strolling around the bustling city of Ypres 
and enjoyed dinner at a pavement cafe before returning to our hotel.




The following day we went to The Somme. The Battle of the Somme began on a summer's day in July 1916 and ended in a snowstorm four and a half months later during which time 60,000 soldiers became casualties either dead or wounded. It was and still remains the black day of the British Army.


Other battlefields included Devil's Wood, Peronne, Newfoundland Park, The Lochnagar Crater and our day ended with a visit to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing  - a massive arched structure with large laurel wreaths carved on top of the pillars. This memorial, designed by Edwin Lutyens is the largest of the Memorials to the Missing, and the last on the Western Front to be unveiled. Over 72,000 names of soldiers missing on the Somme are commemorated here. 



Most of these cemeteries are situated on the actual battlefields themselves. It's so hard to imagine the suffering and courage of those days when looking at the peaceful fields and woods today.



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Last weekend on Remembrance Sunday we popped into London to see the Poppies at the Tower of London - another very humbling experience.




"At the going down of the sun, 
and in the morning, 
we will remember them"



22 comments:

  1. Very thought provoking and yes, they do need to be remembered! x

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  2. I am hoping to visit these sites in Belgium next year all being well. Very moving photos.

    Helenxx

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  3. Very moving photos, Patricia - how brave they all were and what a sacrifice they made:)

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, Patricia. It's both moving and somewhat depressing. So many lives lost, and most of them were just young boys.

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  5. A very moving post Patricia.
    Those brave men.. just slaughtered really. Its unbelievable. We must never forget.
    one would think that the warmongers of today would heed these awful battles.. but it seems men still want to fight and kill.
    The poppies are so so impressive. I would have loved to have seen them.. wish they had been left a little longer.
    I am glad that you went Patricia. xxxx val

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  6. Being there must have been quite an experience and very poignant this year particularly.

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  7. A very moving and thought-provoking post, Patricia. I'm hoping to go with my next-to-youngest sister to Flanders in February 2016 to mark the centenary of the death of my great-uncle in the Ypres Salient. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate. He was 21.

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  8. What a fascinating and interesting and most of all moving visit this must have been for you. We will never forget. xx

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  9. A beautiful post Pat and nicely timed. We have visited some of the sites you mentioned in Belgium, it is humbling indeed. We have much to be thankful and grateful for.

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  10. Thank you for sharing about your visit to the battlefields and cemeteries of the Great War in France and Belgium. Having visited Ypres with my mother many years ago I know how moving the time there in September must have been for you and your group.

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  11. A beautiful post, Patricia, and thank you for sharing it. I particularly enjoy your photos of Ypres and surrounds, which are so similar to the ones I took myself when we went there in 2009. We also went to Sanctuary Wood - how very moving it is, and so good that it is preserved. The poppies at the Tower are the most moving art installation ever.

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  12. What a very moving experience , one that will stay in your memory for all time. Great photos too to look back and show your grand children.
    What a wonderful invention these cameras are recording images for prosperity. Thank you for your kind comment on my last post....xx

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  13. Very moving post Patricia.I can never come to tems with such waste of life and horror.

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  14. I remember these touching poppies around the Tower Patricia! At first moment I didn't understand what is this. I thought they are natural and only then I learned they were ceramic. It was awesome recollection of WWI. I think your trip was interesting as you learnt many of history. I've read the book 'All is quiet on Western front' by Erich maria Remark. I had very strong impression having read it. Did you read this book?
    Have a nice weekend!

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  15. Great to read your post. For the first time, this last half term, I went to a First World War battle site. I went to Vimy Ridge with my family. Like you, I found it a very powerful experience. I blogged about it, twice, the trenches & the memorials. We also saw the Tower Poppies, & again I blogged. I'm trying to relate each post in November to WW1. One day I would hope to get to Ypres & the Somme.Thanks for sharing your post. Hope to be doing the Five on Friday with Amy, Love Made My Home. See you there.

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  16. Lovely and moving post Patricia, and some really lovely photos.

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  17. Thank you for being interested in the five on Friday posts, can you please e-mail me as I don't have your address, and also can you confirm that you are happy for me to share it with the group. Thank you! Amy xx

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  18. We've spent some time in the area over the last few years... and I think Sanctuary Wood is one of the most evocative memorials. It was great to see your photos. Jx

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  19. An interesting post to remember the sacrifice that so many gave.... Sarah x

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  20. Hi Patricia - you are one of my card swap partners, as being organised by Amy at Love Made my Home. Could you drop me an email with your address on? Thank you! Sara

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  21. My son with his school did a very similar trip - and as a 14 year old he originally saw it as a bit of a jolly, but when he'd returned, I could see that he'd been affected by what he saw. He took many photos and had many stories. Thank you for sharing.

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  22. Hi Patricia, I'm so happy to be doing the card swap! My email address is saylorstreetcottage@gmail.com.
    We can exchange addresses.

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