In Flanders Fields

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Tim, May 31, 2005.

  1. Tim

    Tim Long timer

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    Just back from a five day trip to the Ieper (AKA Ypres) area of Belgium. Mrs KTiM and I went in order to honour the war dead (WW1) from both of our families.

    Having taken the ferry to St Malo in France we styed there overnight and set off for Belgium the next morning. Didn't get off to a very good start as our Autocom was not working.

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    Checked all the power leads and connections but couldn't get it to work, which was strange as it was working fine last time.

    We reached our hotel, just East of Ieper on the Ieper - Menin road having covered 316 miles that day. We found that there were a group of British military vehicle owners staying at the hotel and they parked up their vehicles for a photo shoot outside the hotel.

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    The hotel is a post WW1 building built in the grounds of the Hooge Chateau which was destroyed during the war. In the grounds of the hotel is what looks like an attrctive pond.

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    This is in fact formed by two craters resulting from large mines that were fired by the British Forces during the fighting. The mines were constructed by diggers who dug long tunnels under enemy positions, the tunnels were then packed with up to 2 tons of explosives and then fired. The Hooge crater became the scene of fierce fighting during June and July 1915 and formed part of the British front line. On July 30th the Germans used what was then called "liquid fire" or what we now call flame throwers for the first time.

    There are also the remains of trenches to be found in the grounds.

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    There are 5878 graves in the cemetery across the road, of these most are British (the Ieper area being the area of the front held by British Forces) but there are also Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and West Indian graves.

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    many of these graves were moved to this location after the end of the war from battlefield locations.

    Nearby is Sanctuary Wood, where more British trenches have been preserved. In 1915 this area was the scene of a great deal of fighting for possession and re-possession of these trenches. The ground is still pock-marked by shell craters.

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    It's hard to imagine such death and destruction in what is now such a peacefull scene.

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    At Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No.3 we found the grave of my Great Uncle, William Cornelius. He died as a result of his wounds on 17th August 1917, aged 23, this cemetery being in an area used for casualty clearing stations.

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    We then continued to the Nine Elms British Cemetery where Mrs KTiM found the grave of her Great Step-Uncle, Peter Brouard who died on 31st March 1918, aged 23.

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    Dotted around the countryside are the forts that were built by the French to form the Maginot Line. This network of defences were built after WW1 and relied upon by the French to stop any further German invasion. The Maginot Line proved to be of little deterrant to Hitlers forces in 1939/40 as the bulk of the Line was by-passed by the German Blitzkrieg going through Holland and Beligium.

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    This is the Ploegsteert Memorial, located 12.5 KM south of Ieper. It commemorates over 11,000 men who have no known grave and consists of a covered circular colonnade 20 meters across and 11 meters high. The names of the dead are carved on panels in the walls of the collonade. We found the names of two of my Great Uncles, from my Fathers family, George Cornelius who died on 13th April 1918 and from my Mothers family George Luscombe who died on 14th April 1918.

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    Our final memorial was the Cambrai Memorial where I found the name of another Great Uncle, Robert Cornelius who died on 1st December 1917 (the Cornelius family lost all three of their sons in the Great War, only their daughter, my Grandmother surviving), and my Great Great Uncle, George Rose who also died on 1St December 1917, aged 20. The Cambrai Memorial records the names of 7048 men who have no known grave.

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    To our knowledge Mrs KTiM and I are the first family members to have ever visited the graves and memorials to our lost relatives. It was a sobering experience but we are both glad to have done it. Seeing all of the cemetaries and memorials in this small area of Northern Europe brought home to us the enormity of the events of 90 years ago.


    In Flanders Fields
    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.

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    #1
  2. Cooltours

    Cooltours Rider of passion

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    Cool! thanks man, great report to watch and read!:thumb
    #2
  3. Drif10

    Drif10 Accredited Jackass

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    Great report, KTiM. :thumb

    I was posted to NATO HQ in Brussels for 6 years, and Iepers was a regular visit for us. Tyne Cot Cemetary, St Julien, Sanctuary Wood, and even the German cemetary (only one of 4 outside of Germany) at Langemarck. Powerful place.

    Did you do the tour of the museum in the Clothe Hall? I though it was really neat that you'd get a card with a bar code and a name on it, and it was a person from one side or the other, including civlians, and you stopped at these stations along the way thru the displays, and the screen would tell you how "you" were doing. Really made the connection for a lot of visitors we brought there.

    If you ever are passing thru the area, make a stop at Vimy Ridge. At the monument, if you're lucky to have a clear day, you see why that chunk of land was so valuable to both sides. He who commanded the Ridge, controlled the Douai Plain. Your artillery could reach maximum distance without need of forward spotters, and for the Kaiser it was his only source of a critical material needed in the making of gunpowder, except for the one in Munchen. The logistics benefits were so great that it was a critical point in every one of the German's battle plans. Always ensure that Vimy was held, at any cost. Take a tour thru the old tunnels there, really neat to see how so many lived.
    #3
  4. KTOOMER

    KTOOMER ad-vent-ure man

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    WELL DONE KTiM...it's good to know some people still remember their gone but not forgotten relatives...quite moving...
    #4
  5. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    Very powerful. I am glad you went, and glad you took us along. Thanks, P
    #5
  6. DC950

    DC950 Microadventurer

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    thanks. I too am glad someone still cares about those who died in that horrible war.
    #6
  7. nomiles

    nomiles Sledge-o-matic

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    Thank you.

    I went to the cemetery yesterday for the dedication of a soldiers memorial, really makes you reflect. :cry
    #7
  8. GSPeP

    GSPeP Long timer

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    Great report and pictures :thumb :thumb :thumb

    Thanks for taking us along.

    It's hard to believe how much soldiers and civilians died in the area of Ypres. Everywhere you go you can find a large or small war cemetary.

    The belgians will never forget what the british and soldiers from other countries have done. In Ypres, every day at 20:00h the last post is blown at the Menin gate. I believe they have done this with almost no exceptions since the end of WWI.
    #8
  9. Popey

    Popey Nutter

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    Great report and pictures. How easy it is to forget the sacrifices so many made. Thanks for the reflection.
    #9
  10. MaddBrit

    MaddBrit Now officially a Yank.

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    Allen, Tejas. Blissful state...
    Let us all never forget - thanks for bringing us this fine report on Memorial week-end.
    #10
  11. RocketJohn

    RocketJohn Hook em' Horns!

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    Excellent journey... :thumb
    #11
  12. Tim

    Tim Long timer

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    Thanks for the kind comments.

    Drif, we didn't get to the Ieper museum, there was so much to do in only two days. I would like to go back again in order to do some more exploring. I know what you mean about the ID card thing in the museum. Mrs KTiM and I went to a Titanic exhibition in London last year and each visitor was given a boarding card with the details of a passenger. Needless to say that when we reached the end of the exhibition Mrs KTiM was OK as she had been second class but I had been steerage and didn't make it!

    GSPep, as far as I know the only period when the Last Post has not been sounded at the Menin Gate was during the German occupation of WW11.

    I would like to point out to everyone the perfect condition that the graves and memorials are kept in by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

    The following is from their 'site
    http://www.cwgc.org/cwgcinternet/search.aspx

    "The Commission was established by Royal Charter in 1917. Its duties are to mark and maintain the graves of the members of the forces of the Commonwealth who were killed in the two World Wars, to build memorials to those who have no known grave and to keep records and registers, including, after the Second World War, a record of the Civilian War Dead.
    It was the energy of Sir Fabian Ware, the Commission's founder, which established the principles upon which the work of the Commission was built. Those principles, which have remained unaltered, were:

    * each of the dead should be commemorated individually by name on headstone or memorial;
    * headstones and memorials should be permanent;
    * headstones should be uniform;
    * there should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed.

    1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces died in the two World Wars. Of these the remains of 925,000 were found and their graves are marked by a headstone. Where the remains were not found, the casualty's name is commemorated on a memorial. There are war graves in some 150 different countries; mostly in the 2,500 war cemeteries and plots constructed by the Commission."

    The Commission and their local staff do a great job.
    #12