In Flanders Fields  - West London visit to Ypres

Canadian soldier and doctor John McCrae composed this poem in May 1915 during his service as a field surgeon in the midst of the bloody Second Battle of Ypres, in Flanders (Belgium).

In Flanders Fields

Over a long weekend Fri 21st - Mon 24th April , seven from West London visited Ypres. 

 Charles had booked some superb accommodation in the centre of town, allowing us easy access to attend The Last Post Ceremony, which takes place every day at The Menin Gate. 

The Menin Gate as it is now - built between 1923-1927

It had to be rebuilt after damage in WW2

The Last Post is played here every evening at 8.00pm

The caption translates as :                     'To all Soldiers and Citizens of Ypres - victims of the violence of the World war 1939-1945

The gradual destruction of Ypres during World War One was epitomised by the ruined 13th century Cloth Hall, which also came to symbolise the effect of war upon western civilisation. Since the war, the Cloth Hall has been meticulously rebuilt to its original form and it now houses the Flanders Fields Museum. 

The Cloth Hall, which houses The In Flanders Fields Museum, had to be rebuilt after each war, Brilliantly laid out, this pulls no punches in showing the horrors and sacrifices of The First World War. It gives an almost impartial view of the often-flawed military strategies of all sides. Some of the statistics are difficult to take in 

We also visited the nearby Tyne Cot Cemetery, impeccably maintained, just one of many in the area 

Tyne Cot Cemetery is the resting place of 11,954 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces. This is the largest number of burials contained in any Commonwealth cemetery of either the First or Second World War. It is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world. 

The name "Tyne Cot" is said to come from the Northumberland Fusiliers, seeing a resemblance between the many German concrete pill boxes on this site and typical Tyneside workers' cottages (Tyne cots).

At nearby Hooge we visited the Crater Museum – where after a mine was successfully exploded under the enemy's front line, a huge crater still exists

The museum exhibits illustrated the weaponry in those days and nature of hand-to-hand fighting

The Trench of Death in Diksmuide, is the last remaining stretch of Belgian First World War trenches.

We walked around and through the actual areas where others had stood and fought 100+ years before. See below as we literally walked in the footsteps of the Belgian soldiers

Inside the yellow outlined area you can see a Belgian footprint from WW1

Steve Cribbin's boot placed in that exact same space over 100 years later

It only rained everyday - which in a strange way seemed quite trivial in comparison to the months of rain which had so infamously reduced the whole area to a quagmire during the battles there. 

But it was by no means all a sombre weekend - very hospitable and friendly locals, great food and lots of Belgian beer

                                        Oh, and don't forget the Belgian chocolate!

So here are some lighter memories of our trip

 - St. Bernardus was the favourite.    

A rich Belgian Quadrupel, regarded as one of the best beers in the world from the St Bernardus Brewery. Quadrupel (Flemish for 'quadruple') is a type of beer, with an alcohol by volume of 9.1% to 14.2%.

A man's gotta eat ...

...and drink ...

We sampled the local weather lots of exercise

The gang on our visit to Tyne Cot                                         (courtesy of Jude)

Off for a night out on the town!                                           (courtesy of Dan)

Our last night out - and a big thank-you to Charles for organising the trip