I started the morning early. I took myself to the beach and ran. It felt nice to do some morning running again and even better with the rising sun.
I shared breakfast with Anette, a late 30s woman who was a journalist, and currently a mediation teacher with a few publications, and working on her third book and cd.
The group had lunch at 12 and at 1 we were on the bus back to Iepers to pick up our guide.
Our first stop was the Essex Farm. This cemetery is one of many burials. For some they may already know and recognize the name, but this is the site in which Canadian Lieutenant Colonel and surgeon John McCrae wrote In Flanders Field, the poem.
The following picture is a shot of how close the two fronts were at this site. The factory is the German trench line, in the middle was a river and no mans land, and the grass that you see close to you was the British.
A short drive around the river brought us to the Yorkshire Trench. Here the French first built their trenches in 1915, but they were inefficient and was taken by the Germans. The British later recaptured the trenches two years later in 1917 and expanded the trench system by 2 yards.
We were unable to enter into the trenches here because of local vandalism and flooding.
The trench system is currently surrounded by local factories, and oh my did the area smell really bad.
Another short ride and we got to the Welsh grave and another drive we arrived in front a dairy farm. Here we were introduced to a single marked grave. What was so special about this grave was that the hero that it is for is Harry Patch. He was the last WW1 veteran who died in 2009 at the age of 111!
Our next big stop was the German cemetery of Langmark. Out of many established cemeteries that were made during the War and a little after, only 4 German cemeteries were allowed to remain in Belgium.
For me this was a very moving place to be. When you first enter into the cemetery, you pass through a hall. On the wall are four tvs that display the German attacks, including the use of Gas, and the bodies of the dead that it killed. Besides the visual representation, eerie music played throughout the hall. What was also different about the German site, compared to the British and French, was that they use headstones to represent their fallen. Another thing that was noted during this visit, was that four British soldiers were buried among the Germans.
Our final destination for the day was the Tyne Cot Cemetery. Our entrance was narrated by the visual of 3 German machine guns, two which can still seen there. These guns would cross fire each other and would easily pick off any allied solider who tired to march on the hill. Here lay nearly 12,00 graves. They belong to some identified, while most are unknown. Believe to have died at this hill, or in the surrounding area. The Wall around the cemetery is known as Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. On the wall there is around 35,000 names.
The cemetery has several notable graves and memorials, including the grave of Private James Peter Robertson, a Canadian awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in rushing a machine gun emplacement and rescuing two men from under heavy fire. He was killed saving the second of these men in 1917, by a sniper.
The tour ended at night with a memorial service at The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing. Is a war memorial in Ypres dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres during World War I and whose graves are unknown. As I reached the square (Flanders Field Museum), the war commissioners and others mentioned and honoured my friend Cpl. Nathan Cirillio. Cpl, Cirillio died on October 26, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada. The square was beautiful at night, with lights shining on the Museum and surrounding flags.