On bat­tle­ground trail in Eu­rope

Tweed Daily News - - LIFE - - GRA­HAM STEPHEN­SON

DRIV­ING in Eu­rope, it’s not un­com­mon to come across a war memo­rial or field of memo­ri­als, many mark places where Aussie boys fought and died in World War 1.

They should not and hope­fully will never be for­got­ten.

I fol­low the bat­tle­field trail down through Bel­gium, around the cel­e­brated Ypres Salient in­clud­ing, Pass­chen­daele and Broo­seinde Ridge where the amaz­ing Tyne Cot Ceme­tery is lo­cated and where two Aus­tralians VCS win­ners are buried.

Poly­gon Wood is an­other su­perb memo­rial, along with Li­jssen­nthoek Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery and the his­toric town of Poperinge, 11km west of Ypres.

Fur­ther south, the pre­served trenches at Sanc­tu­ary Wood and Hill 62 of­fers a great in­sight as to how dif­fi­cult life in the trenches was.

Next on the trail is the beau­ti­ful town of Ypres which was bom­barded into rub­ble in 1915 and later re­built us­ing the orig­i­nal plans of its his­toric build­ings.

The out­stand­ing Flan­ders Fields Mu­seum in the re­built Cloth Hall pro­vides a real un­der­stand­ing of the strug­gle to hold that city.

Ev­ery night (rain hail or what­ever), at pre­cisely 8pm, mem­bers of the lo­cal fire brigade band march down to the Menin Gate Memo­rial, and in a short cer­e­mony, play ‘The Last Post’.

Words can­not de­scribe this evening event.

Groups of peo­ple from all over the world gather and bow their heads as the strains of the six fire brigade bu­glers pierce the still cold air which echo’s out into the dark­ness.

Af­ter a visit to the fa­mous Messines Ridge area and Ploeg­steert Memo­rial, con­tinue south into North­ern France, vis­it­ing Ar­men­tieres, the ANZAC Ceme­tery at Sailly­sur la-lys, Fleubaix and VC Cor­ner at Fromelles.

Fur­ther south lies Ar­ras and Ba­paume and across to the Aus­tralian Ceme­tery at Bul­le­court, then on to Al­bert via Possiers, that in­fa­mous vil­lage name that sent thou­sands and thou­sands of troops to an early grave.

You must visit the huge Bri­tish Thiep­val Memo­rial to the Miss­ing, but above all, do stop off at the Beau­mont-hamel New­foud­land Memo­rial, this is re­ally heart wrench­ing his­tory.

Then it’s on to Al­bert via the Lochna­gar Crater be­fore get­ting to the beau­ti­ful city of Amiens.

The fi­nal and fit­ting visit will take you east to the Aus­tralian Na­tional Memo­rial at Villers Bre­ton­neux and of course the vil­lage and cel­e­brated school which was re­built with the aid of the School­child­ren of Vic­to­ria, way back then.

Pic­tures: GRA­HAM STEPHEN­SON

The 5th Aus­tralian Divi­sion Memo­rial at Poly­gon Wood in the Ypres Salient. 5741 dead and wounded from 26th - 28th Septem­ber 1917.

The Ypres Fire Brigade play­ing the Last Post which they do ev­ery night at 8pm at the Menin Gate Memo­rial.

The 2nd Divi­sion Memo­rial at Mont St. Quentin over­look­ing Peronne - the dig­ger stands aside his plinth.

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