After a couple of days in Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium, I have to take a sharp intake of breath every time I think back to it. Karen, Sarah and myself set off for Ieper at 5am(!) on Monday with the intention of getting some hands on history, in this case the First World War, with the battles around Ieper in particular. We drove down to Dover, had a two hour crossing to Dunkerque and continued on to Ieper. Karen had booked us into the Cherry Blossom, and Sarah had collated a pile of maps and information about the area and its history. We arrived after about an hour and set about finding the cemetaries and memorials in and around Ieper.
By the end of the two days, we had visited numerous Commonwealth War cemetaries, including the largest – Tyne Cot near Passchendale, as well as the German military cemetary near Langemark, and a number of memorials, including the Menin Gate. By the end of the first day, I was glad to be in the b & b, which was very comfortable, with a very homely feel to it and well-priced to boot. However, I think the lasting memories will be of the cemetaries.
Just looking across the vast number of gravestones at Tyne Cot left one speechless. To see so many gravestones, each one corresponding to at least one life, in precisely placed row upon row. To read the inscriptions on each stone and to see the names of so many unidentified/undiscovered men on the walls of both Tyne Cot and the Menin Gate. To see the locations, the fields, the hills, where these men fell. The past two days have certainly left an impression in my mind. To think so many men gave their lives in the so-called “War to end all wars”. If only it was so. Yet, I think war will always be with us, for as long as our fallen nature is with us. As horrible as it may be. Sometimes, it won’t be the solution to a problem, but sometimes, because of our nature, it might be the only solution to a problem.