Monday, 24 September - - The Brooding Soldier, Tyne Cot, Essex Farm, Passchendaele Ridge, Hill 62

The city of Ypres is beautiful, having been re-built, brick by brick, as part of German reparations after the Great War. In fact, this whole area is lovely and peaceful, but always there is an underlying sorrow in that peace. Our first stop this morning was Essex Farm, where John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields. Essex Farm was a casualty clearing station near the front, and it's clear that conditions were very difficult for both the patients and the medical personnel. A large open area is filled with poppies in the summer, though they're gone now. Wreaths and small crosses have been left everywhere in the cemetery by visitors.

We recited In Flanders Fields as a group. [standing in front of the memorial to McCrae]

The Brooding Soldier is an evocative Canadian memorial at St. Juliaan.

Our visit to a large German war cemetery showed a different side of the war. Many of those buried there were even younger than the boys in the Allied cemeteries -- 11 or 12 years old in some cases. The stones are dark, unlike the white ones in the Allied cemeteries.
Our lunch stop was at a pizza place run by Canadians from Sarnia Ontario (near my home town -- we shared memories).
We went on to the Canadian Gate and the Crest Farm Memorial, a place where Canadians lost a high point then spent 13 days regaining it, at extremely high cost.

The largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery is the world is Tyne Cot and it is heartbreaking to see the rows and rows of graves. In the interpretation centre a soft, calm, dignified voice reads the names, ranks and ages of those buried there, while their pictures are projected on a screen. Many, many of the stones, though, are for unidentified men, "Known to God".
Link to Video of Tyne Cot

A monument at Hill 62 marks the Sanctuary Woods battle.
We were amazed by the artifacts we saw at an unchanged site. It's a private place that's been cleaned up but not altered, where you can see a huge crater, now water-filled, trenches and their roofing, barbed wire and the posts used to string it, shell casings and many other things just lying around, as they were 100 years ago.

Back in Ypres, we walked along the ramparts to the Menin Gate where we could see the names of the Canadian missing, along with thousands from other Allied Countries.

We walked to the Cloth Hall and then visited the cathedral.
After dinner, we walked to the Menin Gate for the Last Post Ceremony. Carol, accompanied by Brock and Walt, laid a wreath on behalf of all of us. [see video below]  We felt very honoured to be part of this moving event.

 Photos of the Day

Video of Carol and the Menin Gate Ceremony

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