Monday, October 26, 2009

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow

Day 4 - Last June (6/5/09 post) I reprinted John McCrae's 1915 poem about World War I. Flanders is the northern area of Belgium. We visited Essex Farm Cemetery where a monument to Mr. McCrae and the poem can be found. It was on this site that the Canadian doctor wote his poem while sitting in one of the many bombproof dugouts. We continued on to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth military cemetery on the continent. It was here at Hill 62 that the Canadians formed the front line in 1916. We also visited the Flanders Fields Museum.

It was in Belgium where The Salient, a great arc of defensive lines, was formed in 1914. By that winter the war of movement was over and the forces dug-in in primitive trenching systems.

I learned that the U.S. only participated in the final five months of the war. An interesting thing occurred known as The Christmas Truce. On Christmas Eve, Belgian and German soldiers put aside the war and shared food and song. An hour later, everyone was back in the trenches and machine guns rang out again.

The Commonwealth Cemetery and War Graves Commission maintains graves, records and registers of 1.7 million soldiers throughout Belgium.

I'm sure I'm oversimplifying this but our tours are called Learn and Discovery so I'm trying to pass on what I learned.

We enjoyed dinner at a restaurant on an island in the city of Ypres.

We then closed the day by attending the Last Post at the Menin Gate. Everyday since WWI the Last Post is played (similar to our Taps) and wreaths laid at the monument inside the gate that lists 50,000 names.

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