Monday, 13 October 2014

Day 161: Ypres to Zonnebeke - Mon 13 Oct, 2014

Day 161: Ypres to Zonnebeke - Mon 13 Oct, 2014
Met British history buffs in ex-army truck travelling war sites and memorials, collecting authentic war uniforms and relics, and acting out reenactments. There were an unbelievable number of cemeteries in such small area of the Passchendaele operations/ battles. 

Wanderoos especially wanted to see Hill 60 site at Zwarte Leen, as BoyRob had worked with mining engineer Ross Thomas, researcher and executive producer of Australian film Beneath Hill 60. The site was muddy underfoot, we had to dodge the aggressive sheep "guard dogs". 

Mother of Peace

Located in the Zonnebeke Chateau, the nearby museum tells the story of the war in the Ypres Salient with special emphasis on the Battle of Passchendaele 1917, one of the bloodiest battles of WWI. As we have come to expect, the exhibits we saw were both graphic and moving. 

Can't even imagine the fear of chemical warfare...

Outdoors was an excellent re-creation of the deep trenches and dugouts (communications, sleeping, latrines etc) that still honeycomb the area today. 

Trenches ran right under the church



Being on site and surrounded by such poignant memorabilia, Wanderoos couldn't help but recall the famous war poem:

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

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

Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

Drove by Tyne Cot Military Cemetery containing the overflow of the names of missing from 1917-18 that couldn't fit on the Menin Gate. 


It was a relief to break for lunch in pub full of Belgium beers, each with its own specialty glass. The boys ordered "delirium tremens" with pink elephants on stein! It has been good to look around the Belgium countryside during our battle explorations, and to see healthy crops, cabbages, onions, and the appropriately named Brussels sprouts. Some houses have put out harvest pumpkins at their front doors. 

Ann couldn't find washing machine at caravan park next to our stellplatz so we drove on to another caravan park at Zonnebeke. Will have to return the stellplatz barrier cards through mail - shame about deposit! Put on washing, oh sigh, a two hour machine. GirlRob took the time to knit more of baby jacket. Then drying - another hour's worth! Spotted pale yellow honeyeater sort of bird. Wanderoos were definitely not interested in their ancient amenities block, skinny skinny shower with doors half-mast facing into the open road! Brr!! Quickly made soup with a bread roll for supper before heading to Ypres in time to "bags" a good place to view the evening ceremony at Menin Gate, a daily occurrence started in 1928. The Gate is a memorial to almost 55,000 missing soldiers up to 1917, dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers, and adorned with inscriptions from Rudyard Kipling. It stood in path of Germany's planned invasion of Belgium (Schlieffen Plan). The names of those located and identified since then by DNA analysis are removed from Menin Gate. 

At 8pm the Last Post bugles were played mournfully by local firemen, the sky going a deep blue. A Scots band played bagpipes, and officers - multi decorated, and groups/ clubs/ associations, individuals and school children laid wreaths. Standing in the centre of the road under the arch of the Hall of Memory a dignitary recited the words of the Exhortation, taken from Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

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