While you were Remembering at the Urban Park I was finishing a six night river cruise on the MS Serenity through Belgium. We visited some of the war’s poignant sites – from Antwerp to the Menen Gate. These included the Memorial Museum of Passchendaele; the Toc H House at Poperinge, a refuge from the horrors of the war and a place where rank was left at the door. Then on to pay our respects at the Tyn Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth Cemetery in the world.
At Ypres we visited St George’s Church, built as a memorial to British and Commonwealth troops who lost their lives in the war. At 8pm we were at the Menen Gate to witness the Last Post Ceremony, which is carried out every evening by the local Fire Brigade. The names of 54,896 missing soldiers are engraved on the walls. By this time on our trip numbers had become superfluous.
On Sunday 11 November we went to a Service of Remembrance at Thiepval Memorial on the Somme. Although it rained it was very memorable.
During the cruise we had two talks by Max Hastings, the military historian. The first was on how the conflict came about. He finds overwhelming evidence that Austria and Germany must accept principal blame for the outbreak. There were also brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where by Christmas 1914 the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs had inflicted over three million casualties.
His other talk, on the ending of the war, made one have second thoughts. While the war was a vast tragedy, he argued passionately against the ‘poet’s view’ that it was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe that the Kaiser’s Germany should be defeated.
A very memorable trip, which made the 100 years seem a very short time ago. We will remember them.
Les Pike, Fairfield resident