Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We crossed the border to Belgium

First of all, I have to apologise. The hotel we are staying in does not allow us more than 20 mins at a time on the Internet. And there is no way I can connect the card reader to download photos. Luckily, being a typically organised librarian, I had these draft pages prepared beforehand, just in case. So you at least get to see what I am describing to you...

Before we got to Ypres we visited a cemetery on the way for two members of our tour group - Cousins Gary and Jim, to visit a grave of thier relative. It was very moving and a great way to bond the group.

Between 1914 and 1918 to town of Ypres was the centre of four great battles, and was completely destroyed by shellfire. Today the rebuilt town is one of the iconic places on the Western Front. Today we went for a walking tour around the town, visiting key sights from the war such as the magnificent Cloth Hall, St George's Chapel, St Martin's Cathedral, the Menin Gate and Ramparts Cemetery. After some free time for lunch (Paul had a burger and I tried Flemish stew), we then went to the outstanding In Flanders Fields Museum, a provocative collection of relics and displays that chronicles the fighting in Flanders and the personal stories of the people involved.

After a very quick dinner of fish and chips (Paul) and onion soup (me) we returned to the Menin Gate, where the names of 54,000 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers are recorded, for the moving Last Post ceremony. The Ypres fire brigade has performed this bugle ceremony every day and in all weather since the memorial opened in 1927. The only interruption was during the four years of German occupation during the Second World War - the ceremony recommenced on the day the town was liberated. It was very moving and some of the members from our tour group were chosen to lay a wreath.

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