785 – Saturday 22nd July 2017: Walking Tour and Menin Gate
A nice walk took us to Ypres centre – we booked on a 5:30 pm guided tour on foot. K explored the excellent Flanders Field Museum whilst O and I supped juice and coffee and the passing Ypresians admired our noble “Hund” (in Flemish). K returned from Outer Space (Oscar says). The walking tour was amazing “Ypres Mysteries” and the photos show his itinerary – he told good stories – including when a group of tourists had to crawl through a small tunnel (150 metres) to appreciate the Ipresian river – and the lights failed!!! The lights failure has now become local folklore and has been incorporated into the tours! At the end, we visited the “Ice House” below the city ramparts – to demonstrate the acoustic our host sang “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.
The “Last Post” ceremony at the Menin Gate was the most emotional moment for us since we visited the Normandy Landings sites 3 years ago – not a dry eye in the house of hundreds..Wreaths were laid by people including a soldier – veteran of WW2 – another “War to end all Wars”. Have we learned – again – from history? There’s no answer, really…
In Flanders Field Museum: Traces the events of WW1 well. Explains horses to mechanisation, trench and tunnel construction, use of new of ‘weapons’ such as flame throwers and gas, medical developments such as blood transfusions and of course the lack of effective movement of the front line.
Oscar’s a la carte dinner …. off the ground … he did not seem to mind!
Entrance to the Fish Market. The sculptor took the theme of the old sculpture, but used the chap from the local swimming baths for his Neptune model and a placid horse which became quite feisty after a bucket of beer.
During the re-modelling of the town in the late C19, the tax collector could only have a tiny office, so doors and stairs took up most of this space.
The signs for military cemeteries everywhere, in town and out. Most have British names as this was the mostly British Front; the Belgians being north and the French south.
Part of the Menin Gate. 55,000 names of missing in combat engraved on the walls. I spotted a Leslie (my maiden name).
The Last Post came from the right hand side. Whilst a choir sang, families (front bottom) walked up and laid wreaths on the opposite steps.
Whilst we had supper, we were blest with a rainbow. A beautiful end to a mixed emotion day.
Our lap dog being fed water.
786 – Sunday 23rd July: Cycling WW1 Sites
“The time has come – the walrus said – to speak of things – and cabbages and kings” Well, the time had come to go family cycling with our ‘king Oscar! Bikes at the ready – my back tyre was as flat as – canbake… Our pump was banjaxed – but a Welsh speaking family came to the rescue – and off we set…After some initial O-wobbling did not manage to unseat K, we sallied forth. To a WW1 crater site – good museum but too much to take in. Lovely lunch at the cafe though and to an open air museum with original trenches and a pill box. Hills 60 and 62 are all stark reminders of the little advances and withdrawals…
So many soldiers graves without names but “Soldiers of the Great War – Known to God”.
Hooghe Crater Cemetery.
In the region of 3,600 men buried here with no named grave, I saw one grave stone with 4 soldiers, then 5 and then 6.
A Canadian memorial on top of Hill 62. Even thought Flanders is largely flat, it is not until you are on top of one of the rises, you realise how strategically important they were.
Hill 60 was bought up by a British family just after the war and kept as it was … the ground was uneven from the mortars and thousands of men are still buried underneath.
Back from our bike ride and I got the twin tub out again and the sun shone on the laundry 🙂
We are in France and have been doing similar to you visiting WW1 museums in Albert, bomb crater nearby and Thipval memorial for the 72000 missing soldiers. Total soldiers lost from all Nationalities in WW1 I think was 2.5 million! We also visited the New Foundland memorial where there are well preserved trenches and bomb craters on no mans land, still hard to imagine how it looked covered in mud, water filled pits and dead bodies. We moved onto Bayeux, visited the WW2 museum and war graves. Now sat by river, drinking wine in free aires in Chateau Gontier which is twinned with our town, en-route to Le Mans and maybe the beach at La Rochelle.
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Ypres and the Flanders Field Museum was one of our highlights of a trip a couple of years ago. We were emotionally drained by the time we had found Shirley’s great Uncle on the wall at the Menin Gate and attended the Last Post. The whole visit has stayed with us to this day.
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Crikey – a double wham of emotion. WW1 and the needless mass deaths was much more draining than the Normandy Landing beaches, which we visited in detail a few years back. To be honest, we could not face any more.