War dead remembered during Flanders visit

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Local author Malcolm Robinson made a recent visit to Belgium to visit war graves and pay his respects.

He writes: This was my second trip with Battle based Lest We Forget Tours who take interested parties on visits to major World War 1 battlefields.

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Last year I went to the Somme with them, this year it was to visit war graves in Belgium.

Our first post of call was Sanctuary Hill where we took in the original First World War tunnels and some wonderful museums all stocked to the gunnels with artefacts from the war from swords, daggers, rifles, shells and more - truly jaw dropping.

From there we travelled over to Ypres to visit Leonides a famous chocolate shop. From there we travelled over to Essex farm cemetery and John McCrae’s bunker.

John McCrae is famous for his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ which was made famous after the war and later adopted with the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. The cemetery adjacent to the bunkers contains the dead from nearby campaigns. One of Britain’s youngest First World War soldier’s is buried here Rifleman Joe Strudwick aged 14 (although on his grave it says 15) .

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From there we visited a cemetery for the German dead of the war, Langemarck Cemetery. Their cemetery does not contain upright graves like the British graves but contain markers and columns stones below which many of the German dead were buried together. It was the first time that I have visited a German war grave and like the British cemeteries, it was very moving.

From there we travelled over to Tynecot Cemetery which is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world where 11,961 servicemen are buried of which 60% are of the ‘unknown soldier’ it certainly is a sight to behold, very moving.

We then travelled to the beautiful town of Ypres which was totally destroyed during the First World War and rebuilt after the war mostly in its original style which included the famous Cloth Hall.

Our final visit was to the nearby Menin Gate which is a war memorial dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. There were literally hundreds at the Menin Gate all waiting in anticipation on the nightly 8pm Last Post played by a single bugle, and when it came is was very moving. In addition, a male voice choir sang a beautiful rendition of the hymn ‘Abide with Me’ and with that it was all over and it was on the coach and back to Blighty.

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It had been a marvellous day all brought together and organised by Joanna Lancaster who kept everyone informed about where we were going and what events of the war occurred at the areas we were about to visit.

They said it was the war to end all wars, it wasn’t, mankind hasn’t learned any lessons and we are still killing in the thousands only now with more sophisticated devices. What we should never forget is that all those brave soldiers gave their today for ‘your’ tomorrow.

For more information on the Lest We Forget Tours, check out their web site at www.lestweforgettours.co.uk or enquiries@lestweforgettours.co.uk.

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