At last we managed to escape the UK for a bit of European travel whilst we awaited a date for Clyde’s knee operation. We booked a ferry for 26 August and a return for 4 October, which gave us 6 weeks to wander about France, Belgium and Germany.
First destination was Arras, as we had decided to do a bit of war grave visiting. Arras is on the circuit and described as very attractive, so we stopped on the aire for a couple of nights. It was a reasonable stroll into the town and was indeed quite attractive. There are two main large squares and several smaller ones. The cathedral was a disappointment but the squares were lovely and the Town Hall was very impressive. We were hoping to be impressed by the interior of the Town Hall but, we were denied entry as we were too late and had not joined a tour. Just our luck!
Le Touret War Memorial
This was a great moment as Clyde’s Grandfather was killed in the First World War, in France. His sister had tracked down his memorial to a cemetery in Le Touret, and we were on a mission to find it. This part of France is littered with war graves and memorials to men from countries all over the world. It is truly sobering to see the scale of death and destruction. So many young lives were lost and families affected forever. Clyde’s father was born after the death of his father, and therefore started life, as thousands of other children did, in a grieving family.
The memorial is situated in beautiful, peaceful French countryside. It is a glorious memorial building and Joseph Campouser is named on one of the many tablets. He is also one of thousands with no grave.
We were so pleased to have had the opportunity to visit this place. Clyde is the first member of his family to ever visit this memorial to his Grandfather and he was very moved by the experience.
As we were so close to Ypres in Belgium, we decided to pay a visit and attend the daily ceremony at the Menin Gate. We stayed on a campsite nearby, the one on the edge of town was full, and we drove to Ypres town late afternoon and parked just along from the gate. The town is not very big but has a pleasant town square and attractive buildings including the old town hall.
We walked up the steps of the Menin Gate and looked at the thousands of names engraved on the walls. More than 54000 Commonwealth servicemen were killed in the Ypres Salient during the First World War who have no known grave. The Menin Gate was unveiled by Lord Plumer in a ceremony on 24 July 1927 that was attended by veterans and relatives of the missing.
In his speech, Lord Plumer declared:”Now it can be said of each one in whose honour we are assembled here today:’He is not missing, he is here’.” At the end of the service, buglers sounded the “Last Post”, a tradition that continues today.
On the day we visited, there was a male voice choir singing as well as the Last Post played by 3 buglers. It was a haunting sound echoing around the walls.
After a few days of driving around the old war grave sites and experiencing the way that these men are remembered in foreign fields, we continued our journey through Belgium.