Sharon's Most Recent Trip To The Somme
Thompson Travel Holidays Blog
I'm just back from WW1 Battlefields so I'm writing this now as I remember it.
I know as I write this, a lot plug their ears or maybe turn over the page, as it sounds to bad to hear, but those think it doesn't affect them have been blind for many years.
As we wander through the streets of Ypres ,I have a smile but also a tear. Imagine over 100 years ago, they thought world peace would be forever here. Imagine all the lives that were lost and what have we learned?
The smell of warm Belgian chocolate and hot waffles are drifting from the Patisseries off the village square, as we sip our Belgian beer. There is such a lovely atmosphere and everyone is having fun, but also respectful knowing how this new town begun. It is a complete replica of before the war begun, a lasting memory but a new beginning too. Time hasn't taken away the history, so it's a like a living experience of the happiness before the devastation begun.
At approximately 7.30pm, everyone heads down the street to observe the daily remembrance, just at the Menin Gate. The fantastic structure holds 55,000 names of those who have fallen there. That is all there is to remember them...for all they gave, so we could live. As the bugles sound out the Last Post, I have total respect and every night at 8pm, there is a crowd there to spectate.
I've been a member of the Last Post Association for a number of years, so it gave me a sense of pride when one of my group, read the Exhortation. You could have heard a pin drop as I looked at the crowd of people of all ages stood around. It wasn't about the glory of any nation or creed. It wasn't about the ceremony, but the silence was the respect and everyone's heart was aching from the stories they had heard. There wasn't enough room on walls of the Menin Gate for all those who lost their lives and were never found. Another 35000 names are on the walls of Tyne Cot Cemetery.
The poppy is worn proudly, but it's not a British thing, as I see it worn with pride and in different colours around the town. It's for all who suffered when WW1 begun. For you who have never heard it, you should read of Moine Michael from the USA. She campaigned for all her remaining days that the poppy would be, an emblem and remembrance for ALL who gave their lives in wars, no matter who they be.
I didn't just visit cemeteries, but one that sprung to mind had 38 nationalities and they all lay side by side. Their religion didn't matter.
I enjoyed a Tommy Tucker lunch in a proper mess tin and all the group enjoyed stepping back in time. The meal was very basic, and like a type of stew but I can imagine the troops didn't care as it was warm and filling too.
There is a brand new project that was launched in 2021, and for me it was a privilege to learn about it from that start. On the edge of Polygon Wood there is a little cafe, owned by a local man named Johan. As an amateur archeologist, he has spent his life on digs and found one of the most amazing finds since WW1 ended. It's the story of the Hunter brothers that made this project come true and it truly makes me think of those sons like any mum would do. The Brothers in Arms Project. It is worth a read.
At every site we visited coaches pulled up with kids from European schools and a few from England were among them too. I think it should be on the curriculum of every school. It is a warning of what a war can do. John Condon left from Waterford Ireland to join the British troops. He lied about his age and could possibly be the youngest soldier, aged 14! There is a song about him by Janet Dowd.
We are really privileged to have the lives we have and we should all remember those who keep hope alive. Regardless of colour, creed or nationality.
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