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  1. #1
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    100 Years

    100

    Back in April, the lad who did my plastering and who I’ve worked with and known for 20 years mentioned in passing that his Great Grandfather died in combat on October 3rd 1918. He was set on visiting his last resting place exactly 100 years later. I said it’d be a privilege to accompany him...so we set to planning a few days away.



    We booked 3 nights at Talbot House. THE most appropriate place to stay if you ever visit the Ypres Salient. https://www.talbothouse.be/en/museum/home

    However, Gt Grandad is buried at the Somme, Thilloy Road Cemetery to be exact. No matter. One day at the Western Front of Ypres and the next day, the correct date, over at the Somme.

    We visited In Flanders Fields Museum and it is superb. I’ve not been for about 12 years and it has been totally revamped so was all new to me.







    Hooge Crater Cemetery was next where we met a group of British Squaddie recruits who are midway thru training and ‘pass out’ on November 9th. We’d see them again about 6 hours later, at 8pm.





    We visited Ploegstreet Woods, known as Plugstreet by the Tommies and on the edge of it is the place where the football match was played, The Xmas Truce.





    A beautiful final resting place and the only place in the whole region where we saw signs of life from pre WW1, these old trees that refused to die.








    A few more stops on the way into Ypres for a bite to eat before the 8pm Last Post Ceremony. I’ve been to perhaps a dozen now and they are all different (That sounds daft but they really are) They follow the same plan. Fire Service Buglers, a few folk to lay wreathes and occasionally a piper, a band or….a New Zealand Rugby Club with maybe 25 16-23 yr olds...who broke into doing the Haka. It was brilliant.





    A couple of beers and an earlyish night and Micks big day arrives.



    The weather was great so after a nice continental breakfast we bimble off the 75 miles to the Somme. Of all the places we ‘need’ to be on this day, what a time to close the only access road for re-surfacing. Never mind, ignore the signs, ride past the gesticulating road workers into a field and follow the tractor lane to the cemetery.











    Job done.

    A meander round some splendid local roads and a visit to the Newfoundland Monument,



    South African National Monument



    Lochnagar Crater



    and a couple of random cemeteries before finally arriving at The Canadian National Memorial at Vimy Ridge. We got there at 4pm and the guy on the gate told us the gate was locked at 5pm. In to the exhibition we wander and are approached by a young Canadian lady who offers us a guided tour of the tunnels and trenches..at 4.30pm. Perfect. We are joined by a French Canadian couple and are shown down into one of many tunnels the allied dug to connect the trenches. At this location.








    The German and Allied trenches are 25 m apart. You could stand in one and hear the enemy talking across no mans land. Weird. A great tour tho and with there being 4 plus the young guide, we had a really good chat...and slagged off the yanks of course. Canada has a Government Work Experience Scheme and the ‘staff’ at Vimy Ridge are Uni students who have applied to do a 4 month stint as a guide (staying at Arras University during their time in France) When you chat with yoofs like these, it restores faith in the future of mankind….so quit reading the shite in the Daily Mail/Mirror/Guardian





    Yup, the car park was closed at 5pm...and we got back to bikes at 5 past. Staff had left a note on my bike stating that as we were the last to leave, could we lock the padlock on the gate as it was just hooked through and not actually locked...Merci. Brilliant

    Mission accomplished we returned to Poperinge, changed and went out for a steak and a beer or 3.
    We spoke with dozens of interesting people of all ages and nationalities during our 3 days there.
    Mick was on the phone to his 80 yr old mum a few times during the trip. It was only when we sat and got nattering about ‘sacrifice’ that it came out that Micks Gradman was an only child. Her father died of his wounds in a casualty clearing station on October 3rd 1918, her mother died some days later in childbirth. I was a bit speechless to be honest.

    These are the little gems. Tiny peaceful plots in the middle of nowhere.



    Thank you to all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and to those willing to put their lives on the line for me and my way of life. To allow me to travel thru France to Belgium on a trip like this.
    If a man speaks his mind in a forest and no woman hears him...is he still wrong ?

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    Regular Tony's Avatar
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    Very very cool trip Dave
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    Regular Screacher's Avatar
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    Great story. Well done, marra.
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    Regular Neil Mac's Avatar
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    Excellent stuff as usual, Dave
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    Regular Nige's Avatar
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    Yet again, thank you for taking the time to share these incredible experiences

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    Wow. Just wow. Great read, Dave & very humbling.
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    Superb read, most humbling.

    No1 son is not far off 21, puts it all into perspective.

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    Thanks, I certainly felt humble and the chat we had with the 5 new squaddies was great. Just 5 normal lads; polite, chatty, smart.

    Quote Originally Posted by leavingeasy View Post

    No1 son is not far off 21, puts it all into perspective.
    We saw a number who were listed as 'served as @@@@@'. Many of these were lads of 14 and 15 who gave false details to sign up. (Or 12 yrs old...)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younge...in_World_War_I
    If a man speaks his mind in a forest and no woman hears him...is he still wrong ?

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    Regular Kev_G's Avatar
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    Lovely write up and trip. Very fitting.

    The German and Allied trenches are 25 m apart. You could stand in one and hear the enemy talking across no mans land. Weird. A great tour tho and with there being 4 plus the young guide, we had a really good chat...and slagged off the yanks of course. Canada has a Government Work Experience Scheme and the ‘staff’ at Vimy Ridge are Uni students who have applied to do a 4 month stint as a guide (staying at Arras University during their time in France) When you chat with yoofs like these, it restores faith in the future of mankind….so quit reading the shite in the Daily Mail/Mirror/Guardian
    I went to the Canadian ww2 museum at Juno beach. They have the same system in place was nice to see them taking interest in the countries history.
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  10. #10
    Thanks for sharing Dave, most humbling.


    Alan

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    Regular Floyd's Avatar
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    Great report. It's on the list of places to visit.

    Nice story too.
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    Regular Jim Cameron's Avatar
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    Proper. Humbling.
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    If a man speaks his mind in a forest and no woman hears him...is he still wrong ?

  14. #14
    Cracking read, thanks for sharing that Dave.

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    Poignant. A rewarding way to spend a few days away
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