The Cross in the Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres, Belgium. The cross in relief against the beautiful sunset was a lovely sight.
This year to commemorate Armistice Day we went on a coach trip to visit some of the First World war cemeteries, and to attend the Last Post Ceremony which is held every evening at 8pm at the Menin Gate, Ypres. We travelled from Kent via the Channel Tunnel, and below is the first cemetery we visited.
A beautiful cemetery whose name I don't know, this one is situated on the outskirts of a small village. It is very sobering to see the ranks of gravestones, knowing that each one represents a young man who fought, and gave his life for his country.
All the cemeteries we visited were beautifully kept by The War Graves Commission, except for one, which I will talk about later in this blog.
The Yorkshire trench built in 1917, situated at Boezinge, near the Essex Farm ADS (Advance Dressing Station.) Just a few yards away at ground level are a series of duck board paths, these show the position of the earlier 1915 trenches. It was great to to be able to go down into the trench, but it was very narrow, and the thought of men 'going over the top' from trenches like these certainly made me think.
The photo below shows one of the 'dug-outs', which were shelters for the men in the trenches. As you can see this one is full of water. The water table in this area is very high, one of the reasons many of the trenches were so muddy during the First World War.
Below is the Memorial to the Welsh Soldiers who lost their lives in this area. The coach stopped very briefly here to allow the photographers among us to pop out very quickly and get some photos :)
A lovely memorial to the many Welsh men and women who lost their lives during World War l.
It was quite difficult to photo the detail of the magnificent Welsh Dragon, with the sun shining behind it, so I deliberately under exposed the shot below to show the detail.
The Welsh Memorial is situated in Langemark and was unveiled on 16th August 2014.
Still in the Langemark area is this monument next to the German Cemetery.
After the end of the First World War the Germans were given a small piece of land by the Belgians to be used as a cemetery for the German dead. The Belgians insisted that the grave stones were not upright, but flat on the ground, and the whole site was surrounded by high hedges or walls. Oak trees were planted as this is the national tree of Germany. Various alterations have been made to the site over the years, including the addition of the Basalt crosses shown in the photo above, which were erected in the 1950's.
There are almost 45,000 men buried here, with varying numbers of men buried in each grave, their names inscribed on the square stones as shown in the photo above, there are 16 names shown on this particular stone. Thousands of unidentified men are also here, buried in a mass grave known as the 'Comrades Grave'.
Hitler is known to have visited this site during the Second World War, our guide showed us a photo of him, standing very close to where we were.
This site is cared for by Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraber Fursorge (the VDK) and, as you can see is very different to the sites which are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is actually a very peaceful and calm site, the oak trees are now nearly 100 years old, their presence gives the whole site a very different and distinctive atmosphere.
The St. Julien Memorial which is dedicated to Canadian Soldiers, 2000 of whom lost their lives here as the result of the Germans using Chlorine Gas for the first time.
Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world, with nearly 12,000 men buried or commemorated here. We arrived at dusk, which bathed the whole site in an incredible light. I don't know that you can call a cemetery beautiful, but if you could this would be the one.
The super moon rising over the cemetery.
Our last visit of the day was to the Menin Gate in Ypres. Ypres is a lovely little town, and the Menin Gate is on the site of one of the original gates into the town.
Our guide told us to get into the gate by 7pm, the ceremony was due to start at 8pm. We found a much needed bar/restaurant and did not get back to the gate until about 7.20pm, to find there were thousands of people inside, and outside the gate, so we did not actually get to see the ceremony. We were standing right beside the gate, and saw the bands march in. We could also hear the whole ceremony, the music was wonderful, and very stirring. If we manage to go to Ypres again next year we will try our best to be under the gate early!
Part of one of the panels inside the Menin Gate.
And finally, the reason why we were there, to honour the thousands upon thousands who gave their lives so that we could live in peace. I thank them all for the ultimate sacrifice they made.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.