Lest we forget
As you know we love to travel, we enjoy the freedom hard won by those who have paid the ultimate price.
Our travels take us around the world, and extensively through Europe. From our home in the south-east of the UK, we can be in Ypres in a matter of hours. If fact Ypres is only 60 miles/95kms from Calais – our gateway into mainland Europe.
Ypres is a beautiful little town whose centrepiece, the Cloth Hall, is a gothic masterpiece. It’s hard to imagine as you park in the Grote Markt car park the horrors of 100 years ago. In fact that magnificent Cloth Hall has been reconstructed from its near complete destruction in the first world war.
Commemorations of the Battle of Passchendaele
Earlier this year, the BBC broadcast a series of commemorative events to recognise the centenary of the start of the Battle of Passchendaele. To be honest, it was a new horror from the Great War that I was about to discover. I was aware of the significance of Ypres, and the fact that this battle is also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, but the name Passchendaele was new to me.
As the story unfolded, the true horror of this particular exercise in madness came into sharp focus. Allied troops marched through the town in northern Belgium to an unknown fate.
The Menin Gate
As the Allied soldier marched east, they crossed through Menenpoort, the remains of a medieval entrance to the city, as they made their way to the front lines. For many, they would not return.
The nature of the battle was that many soldiers would be lost, without a body to recover. The fields of Flanders would be their lasting resting place.
Shortly after the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission instigated a lasting monument. Designed in 1921 by Sir Reginald Blomfield, a huge mausoleum was unveiled on 24th July 1927, over the route the troops would have taken. The monument holds the names of nearly 55,000 souls who have no grave. Lost to the soil.
The Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery
However, the story of those with no known grave does not end there. The Menin Gate only records the names who fell before the 16th August 1917.
A further memorial, and the graves of the bodies recovered, is located outside Passchendaele. The Tyne Cot cemetery is the largest in the world, for Commonwealth soldiers of any war.
The Passchendaele Pins
To commemorate those who fell at Passchendaele, the Royal British Legion commissioned a poppy pin to mark the centenary.
The pins brass poppy petals are made from some of the 1 million brass shell fuses that have been recovered, and continue to be recovered each year, by the farmers now working these fields. The red & green enamel contains finely ground earth from key locations of the battlefields.
The pin is dedicated to the men that fell between the 31st July 1917 to 10th November 1917.
Each pin commemorates the life of a soldier.
Janis’ recognises Lance Corporal C Andrews of the Devonshire Regiment (Service No 14193) who fell on the 31st July 1917.
My pin commemorates Corporal H Newson (Service No 14191) from the Norfolk Regiment who died on the 22nd October 1917.
Last Post Ceremony
Our next visit to Ypres will include a visit to the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, and to attend the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.
Each night buglers from the local fire brigade play the Last Post at 8:00 pm, in a ceremony that has taken place uninterrupted since the 2nd July 1928, except for occupation during World War II. For more information check out the Last Post Association Web Site.
You can also view the official Royal British Legion video of the ceremony on YouTube:
Your Passchendaele poppy
You can purchase a pin via Amazon from the official Royal British Legion Poppy Shop.
Any commision we make from the sale of these pins will be donated back to the Royal British Legion.