This March we were fortunate enough to go away for a few days to Holland and Belgium. Ypres, in Belgium was a place that I’d always wanted to visit. It was the site of several terrible battles between 1915 and 1918 including the Third Battle of Ypres, known as the Battle of Passchendaele. The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, above, at one end of the town, is a particularly poignant place to visit, with the names of over 54,000 British and Commonwealth officers and men who died in World War 1 but whose graves cannot be found, carved into stone. It’s so much bigger than I expected; the section you can see in the photo is only a small part, it extends left and right for some way.
A register held under the arch lists names in alphabetical order, so you can find exactly where a family member’s name is carved and displayed, on the monument. At 8pm every night, traffic stops flowing through the arch, and The Last Post is played. If you visit then, you are told this is a solemn moment, and applause is not appropriate. Tyne Cot Cemetery (below), a few miles away, displays thousands more names of men who were lost.
Uncomfortable to think of so many deaths, every one a son, maybe a brother, a father. *Breathes deep*. Anyway. We enjoyed fabulous frites and mayonnaise, as you’d expect in Belgium, and the Cloth Hall, included in the pic below, houses the In Flanders Fields Museum which is well worth a visit. This version of the Cloth Hall is an exact copy of the original 13th century building which was destroyed during World War 1, as was most of the rest of the town, now restored to its former glory. A thought provoking place to visit, if you have an interest in, or family members who were lost, in World War 1. Oh, and the town has more delicious Belgian chocolate shops than you can shake a stick at. Yumm.
Photo by Paul James Cowie