Remembrance Sunday

Today’s post is a guest one from A Son of the Rock (Jack).

Poelcapelle War Cemetery, Flanders, Belgium

Poelcapelle is today spelled Poelkapelle. The village is a few miles north-east of Ypres (Ieper.) The British War Cemetery (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) is by the N313 road from Bruges (Brugge) to Ypres.

Poelcapelle War Cemetery,  Belgium

I’ve been to Tyne Cot but nevertheless still gasped when I entered Poelcapelle Cemetery. There are nearly 7,500 burials here, the vast majority, 6,230, of which are “Known unto God”.

View of interior from entrance:-

Interior of Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Graves:-

Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Some of the unidentified soldiers of the Great War:-

War Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Lines of graves:-

Lines of Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance:-

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Memorial to some of those whose earlier graves were destroyed in later battles:-

Memorial Stone, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

As usual the graves are beautifully kept. A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God and Private F J Patten, Hampshire Regiment, 4/10/17, aged 21:-

Planting, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Two Soldiers of the Great War:-

More Planting, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

There is one World War 2 grave at Poelcapelle. Private R E Mills, Royal Berkshire Regiment, 30/5/1940, aged 19:

WW 2 Grave, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance:-

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance Closer View

Perth Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium

We stayed at the hotel in Ypres for a couple of nights and during the day we mainly travelled around visiting World War 1 cemeteries. This one is Perth Cemetery near Ypres (Ieper) so called because most of the soldiers around this area came from Perth in Scotland.

Gates and Cross
They’re well looked after by the War Graves Commission and most of the time the smaller ones are very peaceful places, they’re mainly surrounded by farmland.
graves 1
In this one we disturbed a beautiful hare who was sunning himself amongst the flowers, far too fast to photograph of course, but I had to admire the choice of place to relax as the plants were particularly lovely here.
Perth cemetery from road

As you can see these cemeteries are very much part of the scenery with roads and people’s houses right next to them.

Perth Cemetery near Ypres

Ypres

After spending an afternoon in Bruges we drove on to Ypres or Ieper as the locals prefer to call it nowadays. We were there last year for the first time, mainly because we wanted to attend one of the services of remembrance that are held every evening at 8 pm at the Menin Gate. You can just see the edge of the massive gateway to the town in this photo. It has thousands of names of the ‘fallen’ on it. The road is closed off every evening which does annoy some of the locals, but as so many visitors are going there just to track down family graves, and it brings a lot of money into the local economy, I think it’s something that they’ll just have to put up with.

Menin Gate from street

The photo below is another view of the Menin Gate taken from the west.
Menin Gate from West

Below is another view of the Menin Gate and the moat which surrounds the town.
Menin Gate from ramparts

The photo below was taken from the ramparts near the Menin Gate and the houses are on the other side of the moat. They’re all individually designed and some are very smart looking.
houses in Ypres Belgium

I didn’t take any photos of the town of Ypres this time but you can see some I took last year here.

And we stayed at the same hotel which you can see here, we had much better weather last year.

This year we just took the photo below, in the evening.
Hotel Kasteelhof ‘t Hooghe

Remembrance Sunday

You might know that earlier in the year we visited Ypres now known as Ieper in Belgium. Whichever direction you turn there’s a World War 1 cemetery or memorial. When we saw a sign to the Liverpool Scottish Memorial pointing down a wee farm track we decided to visit it.

Liverpool Scottish Memorial near Ypres

Bumping along the track I could see a tractor in the distance ploughing a field, a dangerous occupation in that area, but someone has to do it. From time to time tractor drivers are killed when they inadvertently pull up an old shell.

Shell Crater near Ypres

It’s all very peaceful now and to the left of the memorial is a field with cows in it. To the right of it is a small wooded area and we went for a walk in it. What an atmospheric place, I wouldn’t say it was exactly spooky, I think I’m a very level headed person normally but honestly I could feel the presence of the soldiers who are no doubt lying in the ground, best left in peace amongst the trees now I think.

Shell Crater near Ypres

EU Referendum Outcome

I went to bed last night not long after the first vote was announced, Gibraltar. Something like 853 people there managed to vote for leaving the European Union. You might think that that is a very small number compared with those who voted for staying in Europe but given their situation it seemed like a bad omen that there were 800 odd people mad enough to vote that way.

So I knew then that I would wake up to an OUT win. I’m absolutely shattered and will never forgive David Cameron for being such a weak minded idiot in bowing to pressure from the loony right wing of the Conservative party, those Tories stab us every time they get power, not that Tony Blair was any better.

Scotland of course voted to stay in the European Union but as usual we will just be dragged along in England’s wake. And that’s where we differ so much from people in England. We in Scotland are well used to being ruled from afar by Westminster despite how we vote, so it was no big problem for us to have the European Parliament throwing in its rules every now and again.

As for the fishermen who are so upset by the EU fishing regulations – where were they when the miners/shipbuilders/steelmakers and just about every other industry was put out of business by UK governments?

Jack’s blogpost for today is The Price of Sovereignty.

Remembrance Trees, Ypres, Belgium

Remembrance tree

I think they started planting these Remembrance trees just outside Ypres in 2014, to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of World War 1. As you can see there is a framework around the tree and it has a map showing you exactly where the tree is and the trench lines as they were in 1914 with the British marked in blue while the Germans are in red.

I had always known that the trenches were close together but I had imagined them being maybe around 50 yards (metres) apart at the closest, but if you look carefully at the above photo you can see another tree with a framework around it, that was the British trench. So it’s just at the other side of a very narrow road, supposedly 20 metres away but I don’t even think it is that far. It looks to me like the soldiers could have almost leaned forward and shaken hands with each other, had they been so inclined. They wouldn’t even have had to raise their voices to speak to each other.

There’s something really crazy and awful about it, there couldn’t be anything anonymous about killing someone under those circumstances.

The Hooge Crater Cemetery is just across the other side of the road, and as it is just a two minute walk from our hotel we went there straight away to have a walk around it. We counted up the graves and the rows and thought that there must be over 1,000 men buried in it, but when we went to sign the register at the memorial it said there were nearly 6,000 men laid to rest there.

Often they have no names and say Known Unto God and often it says five soldiers rest here. Presumably they could only find bits and pieces of the poor souls who had been blown up.

Hooge Crater Cemetery Communal Graves

It’s not exactly an enjoyable experience but if you are interested in that period of history then it’s something that you feel you must do. Looking at the graves made me think that we really can’t afford to leave the EU – flawed as it is (what is perfect) – if only to stop anything like that war ever happening again. You have to jaw jaw as Churchill said – not war war.

If you’re intersted you might like to click over to Jack’s Menin Gate post.

Ypres (Ieper) in Belgium

Ypres Buildings

In Britain we say Ypres (Eeprr) in the French fashion, I’m not very good at that French ‘r’ rolling thing. Anyway, that was how it was pronounced locally at the time of World War 1. The British troops of course decided that it was much easier to call the place Wipers. After the war the Flemish people of the region decided that it was about time they dropped the French way of doing it, after all it isn’t in France it’s Belgium. So now it’s called Ieper (Eeyeper) well that’s what it sounds like to me. The whole town was flattened as it was right on the front line, and it had been such a lovely mediaeval town too.

Ypres Building

After the war there was a discussion about what should be done about the place. Churchill was keen to keep the whole area in ruins as a memorial to the dead. Understandably that didn’t appeal to the locals who just wanted to get back home and get on with normal life. So the decision was taken to re-build as close as possible to what had been there before, and I think they made a good job of it.

Cloth Hall fountains

The fountain above is obviously modern, I love fountains, there aren’t enough of them around, in Britain anyway. It was hot while we were there and in common with lots of old places Ypres has now and again a whiff of old drains but the town also smells of chocolate, very enticing.

If you go to Ypres be sure to visit The Flanders Field Museum. It’s one of the best museums I’ve ever visited – and I’ve visited a fair few in my time. Give yourself at least three hours to go around it.

Ypres is just a small town surrounded by farmland, interspersed with many cemeteries and memorials. I read somewhere that the farmland had been very poor prior to the war, but afterwards it was the most productive farmland in Europe. I don’t know if that’s true but it is an undeniable fact that it was certainly very well fertilized, what an awful thought.

It’s a dangerous job driving a tractor on these fields as unexploded shells are ploughed up all the time and sometimes they explode when they’re disturbed, killing or maiming the poor driver.

tractor

If you’re interested you can see some images of The Wipers Times here.

Hooghe, Ypres, Belgium

I’ve had an interest in World War 1 since schooldays, my maternal grandfather was apparently one of those crazy lads who lied about his age to join up. He survived the war but died when I was very young.

Hotel  Back

Anyway when we knew we would be going back to Holland we decided to combine a trip to Ypres (Ieper) in Belgium, so we booked up two nights away in Kasteelhof ‘t Hooghe mainly because the location seemed ideal to us. The photo above is of the side of the hotel and our room was just to the right of the middle of it, the window before the little gable roof and the door and two windows after that, if you look closely you can see our balcony.

crater

The view from there is of a wee lake which has been formed from mine craters. It’s all very peaceful now but as you can see from the defensive concrete pill box this was once a very hot place to be. In fact the trench there was first dug by Germans and it was here that they used a flame thrower for the very first time. It was very strange to be sleeping about 30 yards from where that happened. A part of the trench has been preserved by a local history group and there are piles of rusting bits of shells and such lying around. Shrapnel is being dug up all the time and it’s a dangerous job ploughing fields around here as ploughs often disturb unexploded shells. Farmers are sometimes killed if the shells go off after being dragged up.

Sheep

You have to imagine that there would have been no trees back then as they would have been blasted to bits in no time. The sheep grazed right beneath our window in the daytime but in the evening they moved elsewhere.

Hotel  Kasteelhof 't Hooghe in Ypres

Above is a photo of the front of the hotel. Originally there was a very grand castle nearby and they had the misfortune to have the war taking place on their doorstep. In no time there was nothing left of the castle and after the war the owner had this building built which he called a cottage, it was to be a stopgap home for him. He intended to rebuild his grand house but it never happened. It’s a nice place and I would go back again, and probably will as there is plenty to see around there and we only had time to scratch the surface of all the places of historical interest.

If you’re interested in what went on in the area during the war have a look here.