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