In some corner of a foreign field
As a child, I never really gave much thought to either the first or the second world wars. Although my own father fought in World War II – spending four-and-a-half years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Poland – he never talked about his experiences, preferring to forget about them and move on with his life. Even when something inadvertently forced a memory to resurface, he was economical with the details when relating it.
It was not until many years later that I finally gave the subject the consideration it deserved, particularly after reading Bird Song by Sebastian Faulks. That book – along with the play Journey's End by R C Sherriff and the Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker – had a profound impact on me. All of them managed to illustrate the horror of the First World War, as well as the terror and fear of young, unsuspecting soldiers – many of whom were still teenagers – who suddenly found themselves in a situation for which they were totally unprepared and inadequately equipped.
Therefore, when a friend of mine told me he was organising a tour of some of the war graves and battle sites of the First World War, I knew it was a trip I could not turn down.
Left to right: Grenville Watts and Martin Trumble (our drivers), and David Lilley (our tour guide).
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
THE GERMAN CEMETERY AT LANGEMARK
Many of the graves contain multiple names
HILL 62 AND SANCTUARY WOOD
Above: It was a privilege to meet Ray, an RAF veteran of the Suez Crisis in Egypt. One of his ancestors was shot down during World War I by The Red Baron. Right: The network of trenches at Sanctuary Wood.
The museum houses a large collection of World War I memorabilia.
Above: The sheer scale of Tyne Cot cemetery is profoundly moving. Right: A poignant reminder of how young most of the soldiers were who lost their lives fighting for their country. This soldier was only 19 years old.
TYNE COT CEMETERY
The field in the background is the site of the Battle of Passchendaele, now peaceful farm land.
THE MENIN GATE AT YPRES
There are 52-53,000 names of missing and unaccounted for soldiers inscribed on the walls of the Menin Gate. To watch the ceremony, click on the above image. The ceremony lasts about 30 minutes and you’ll probably want to skip the preceding ad.