Sunday 15 November 2009

In Flanders Fields

On Friday my eldest Daughter went to Ypres in Belgium with her school. Some parents were unhappy about this trip but I was glad the school didn't wimp out and water down the experience. I did WWI History when I was at school but the class next door – which included my future wife – skipped WWI in favour of "the History of medicine"… She managed to go through her whole school career without ever learning about either World War. Needless to say I was determined that this wouldn't happen with my kids.

I asked Sarah to write a few words about her trip and what it meant to her combined with some of her pictures.

"My trip to Ypres was one I’ll never forget. Although my stay at hill 62 was brief, it gave me an insight into life in the trenches that you can’t really get anywhere else. The trenches themselves have not been tampered with, and looking about some of the shell craters are so close that I can easily understand how terrifying it was. I definitely wouldn't have liked to live there for long, as most of it was submerged in a foot of water, in the dugouts the lighting is so poor, the footing is treacherous, and it’s so wet it wouldn't surprise me if there were a few broken ankles from the men who lived there.

I also visited Tyne Cot cemetery, were row after row of grave stones stretch back, many of which were nameless. It’s was one of the biggest eye-openers of the day, and it genuinely surprised me that there were so many headstones. I know that I, along with the rest of my classmates, found the entire experience moving, and I agree with my friend when she said that ‘Although it’s sad, this is the most peaceful place I have ever visited.’

We finished the day at Menin Gate Memorial, and although the gate is massive in size, every inch is covered in the names of soldiers whose bodies were never found. Before we left we laid a wreath of poppies by the gate and I was asked to read out a poem; we were not the first to leave a wreath, and I was glad to see the masses of poppies that were laid to remember the men who died here, even after all these years."


  1. Lee
    A very nice article by your daughter. Went a few years ago myself, and found it a very moving experience.

  2. I've never had the chance to go myself, but my girlfriend went a few years ago. She's desperate to take me there, and it seems like such a unique experience, especially the Last Post at the Menin Gate.

    I'll never understand the parents who complain about trips like this. It's something we shouldn't ever forget!

  3. Ypres is indeed a moving experience. Sadly it seems the education of young people right here in Belgium is somewhat lacking as far as the Great War is concerned. Less and less students learn about how millions of soldiers came to Europe to fight and perish for the liberation of the continent. There is more remembrance in the UK than in Belgium, that's for sure. And as we all know, once you start forgetting your history...

  4. Took my kids to Oradour Sur Glane a few years back. Second world war, an entire village population destroyed by the germans possibly as an act of revenge just a few days after the normandy landings. When de gaul visited the site just after the war he said "leave it as it is" we will build a new Oradour just up the road and leave this as a reminder. Tis a very powerful place to visit.

  5. I go every year for 11/11. I think it should be compulsory on the curriculum or else we WILL forget


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