There were many surprises that came from our visit to the World War One cemeteries around the Belguim town of Ypres. Things we’d just never given any thought too before, for example I’d only been thinking of the British nationals that were buried in the immaculate grave yards, surrounded by poplars trees, and a vast expanse of fields and sky, the kind of image we are all familiar with.
We booked a guide, Patrick Jonckheere of 2explore, this was the best move we could have made. He suggested we should start our first day at the Flanders Fields Museum, in Ypres, to start to familiarise ourselves with some of the key events. He then picked up in his car and whisked us away, taking us too places we’d probably never have found or thought to visit on our own. like the Yorkshire Trench, in the middle of an industrial estate. It’s a long time since I’ve been quite so focused or learnt so much in five hours! However the tour was so well paced and knowledgeable it simply flew by (we’d not asked for any specific places to be included, but Patrick prides his ability to research and deliver tours particular regiments, events, or people) .
In my naivety, I’d not thought about the fact that WWI was at the time of The British Empire, and those fighting and dying came from across the globe. Would I ever have thought of a Maori Battalion from New Zealand? (Over 16,000 New Zealand soldiers died during WWI).
The memorials to the soldiers of New Zealand, are both beautiful and evocative
This image is taken from within an art work, that forms part of a New Zealand memorial garden at the Memorial Museum, Passchendaele, it made me wonder what it was like deep within those muddy trenches.
I’ve not yet written about the act of remembrance that takes place at the Menin Gate in Ypres each evening. I defy anyone, not to be moved by it, but this video brings a very special and, powerful and emotional energy, just watch.