Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Flanders Tour, Sept 2, 2018, Mona M

Tyne Cot Cemetary

Tour of WW-1 Flanders Battlefields and Memorials

Outbound to Leuven & Kiel, Day 5 of 24, September 2, 2018
By:  Mona M

What a beautiful, sun-filled day we had today, on a tour of the scenic countryside, with views of pastures of sheep & cows and fields of corn. And scars from World War I.
Sheep contentedly grazing on what used to be wasteland near Hill 60 and Caterpillar Crater
Poppies placed in the mouth of a machine gun bunker on Hill 60
Tyne Cot Cemetary

Tyne Cot Cemetary
And even cemetaries for the German dead
In the Yorkshire trenches near Langemarck

We visited the rebuilt market town of Ypres (Iepers in Flemish, and pronounced ‘eepers’ – not ‘wipers’ like the British soldiers used to call it in WW-1) and Passchendaele. We visited a few of the many cemeteries, hills, ridges and bunkers and remembrances of the many hundreds of thousands of men who died here.

In Ypres, we went through the Flanders Fields Museum and attended the commemoration services at the Menin Gate.
Menim Gate in Ypres, with contrails

The gate looks like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, not quite so high, but deep (several hundred feet). Its walls list the names of over 50,000 officers and men who fell in the Ypres Salient “whose graves are known only to God”. A  military bugle corps and bag pipes played The Last Post at 8pm, just before sunset.  Hundreds and hundreds looked on in respect and silence.  They do this every night, and have done for the past 100 years except for the period of Nazi occupation in WW-II.
It is the 100th anniversary of The Great War. Events have been held 2014 through this year, with extra tributes and ceremonies throughout Belgium.

This area (the Ypres salient) is where machine guns were used for the first time to efficiently mow down hundreds of men.  Poison gas was first used here – chlorine gas, then in 1917, mustard gas.
Now in 2018 – after another century to develop even more lethal weapons – we ask when?  When will we humans learn to do whatever we can to end war and promote peace?

I think “In Flanders Fields” says it best – It is a famous WW-I poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, a Canadian surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres – and a poet. He wrote "In Flanders Fields" in anger and rage after his close friend died in a chlorine gas attack.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
  Between the crosses, row on row,
..That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.   Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

In Friendship and Peace

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