Ypres (Leper) Salient : The Great War 1914-18
The trenches, battlefields, Museums & Cemeteries around Ypres, Belgium
One thing I regret in life is the fact I never spoke to my Grandparents about their experiences during the First World War. However, the fact is, they never ever spoke about it as many others didn't as well.
It was just a few years ago when, after we opened up the suitcase under my Brother's bed, we found a mountain of photograph's, artefacts memorabilia and letters from that WW1, I decided to look into it all further.
One Grandfather started at Ypres and finished in the trenches of the Somme and my other started at Gallipoli, went to Palestine, Egypt and also finished up in the Lille area on the Western Front. Both were in the Royal West Kents.
We also found we had a Great Uncle who was a pilot and lost his life in Egypt just weeks before the end of the War.
All this prompted me to look into it further and over the last few months I have been travelling to Belgium and France a few times to gather information and to see for myself where my Grandparents stood and fought for their country and of course, why I am here today!
Visiting these places is an eye opener. You hear the names like Passchendaele , Menin Road , Flanders so many times at Remembrance Sunday ceremonies, but I don't think you grasp it until you've been there.
You can of course take the Battlefield Tours and have everything scheduled for you, no harm in that, but I wanted to take my time, venture off the beaten track a little and have 'my time' to work things out. My son Leo has accompanied me on these trips and together.
The fact we can share these things together, makes me (and others of my age group) a link to the past. I knew my Grandparents, I knew my Father, who served in Alemein and Italy during WW2. He never knew any of them, but the joy is that he like many others of that age group want to learn. In deed there is much of that as well, plus of course many lessons to be learnt.
The last time I managed to save up a bit and we stayed at The De Akkerwinde B&B at Polygon Wood, Ypres for three nights, a great very reasonably priced bed and breakfast in a lovely rural setting. From there we could plan our days and much info was gathered.
The lasting impression of visiting the Ypres Salient of Belgium is that of a huge National Monument, not only to the British, but all the Commonwealth Countries and not forgetting the Belgium people, the French and indeed, the Germans as well. It's a beautiful place and to imagine it as probably being quite similar when the Troops turned up in 1914 is quite surreal.
The photo above of my son stroking the Pony is at Polygon Wood Cemetery, once no mans land and still reminding us of the Great War almost daily when yet more shells return to the surface of the fields.