Visit to Belgium and France

My wife and I and two friends recently went on a WW1 battlefields trip.

We went to Belgium first to Ypres . We visited the Menin gate on the first evening at 8pm to pay our respects after the last post was played as it is every evening. We were surprised to see that there were about five hundred people in attendance on a Thursday evening. It was pretty emotional to be there . We went again the next morning to lay a wreath on behalf of the Barnack Royal British Legion Branch. We then visited the Flanders Field Museum which was really interesting.

We spent the next two days visiting many battlefields and cemetaries including Tyne Cott which is one of the largest having 12000 graves ! We then visited the Passendale experience museum  including the trenches experience.

We then went to the Somme area and the Delville wood cemetary and Soutrh African Memorial. The surrounding forest is a living memorial as the bodies of the soldiers lay where they fell . The forest has grown back since with only one original tree remaining!

Other places we visited were the Fricourt German cemetary where the Red Baron  was originally buried but has been moved since , Loch Nagar crater which was the result of the mine warfare – the aftershock was apparently felt in London!

Thiepval memorial was magnificent and you can see it for miles as you approach, The French graves that were there were almost all unknown which was very sobering.
The Serre road cemetary (no2 of 3) was the largest on the Somme with 11,139 buried there. There are so many cemetaries all over the place as you drive along and all are spectacularly maintained – very impressive .

The last few cemetaries we saw were Beaumont Hamel, Newfoudland memorial, Pozieres cemetary. The Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge is also spectacular and commemorates the 60,000 canadians that lost their lives .

The last place that we visited was the Notre Dame De Lorette Cemetary which contain 40,000 French graves. There is a new memorial in the shape of a circle that has all the names of everybody that gave the ultimate sacrifice with no ranks or nationality difference.

We crammed a lot into three full days but was well worth it. Incredibly thought provoking and emotional.

See a gallery of images from the trip.

 Paul Dawson