Lest We Forget
My roadtrip finds me in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium tonight. This morning I took my 3 Australian friends under the English Channel on Le Shuttle, through France and into Flanders. We aim to cover as much of the areas the ANZAC troops did during WW1. We have 2 nights in Ieper and 2 nights in Albert in the heart of The Somme.
We have just returned to our B&B having attending the Last Post at the Menin Gate. It was fitting the Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Brendan Nelson, was in attendance laying a wreath and that my friends managed to have a quick chat with him. It is such a moving ceremony regardless to the number of times I witness it.
On the way I showed them Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery which is about 12 Kms west of Ieper. It lay on the main route between the Allied bases and the Ypres battlefields. It became a major hospital site housing several casualty clearing stations. Not everyone who arrived left and during the course of the war 9901 Commonwealth soldiers were buried here making it the second largests Commonwealth cemetery in Belgium after Tyne Cot.
As always all Commonwealth cemeteries are maintained to the highest level by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and their staff. Normally I get to watch the gardeners working away, tending the flowers and grass. Today in Lijssenthoek the engravers were repairing the headstones. Some lay flat on their fronts, others kneeling, all painstakingly etching into stightly faded inscriptions making then look sharp and new again.
Most workers tend to be local but here I've captured Tony working. He originally came from Hounslow but moved here when he married his French wife 7 years ago. He has been engraving for the CWGC for the past 4 years. We owe so much to people like Tony for helpng us to keep the sacrifice made by so many alive.