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Published: November 6th 2013
Ypres in Belgium 4 November 2013
We arrived at the camp site in Ypres at 5.00pm in darkness and it was still raining. The camp site was a recommendation from friends Pauline & Ross who had stayed here a week or 2 beforehand. We were very grateful for their advice. As soon as we hooked up to power we put our heater on!!!!
One thing we were looking forward to was to see the bugle-playing event, the ”Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing” that happens every day of the week for many years since the 1920s, at 8.00pm. At 7.30pm when I was going to walk to the ceremony the rain started to pelted down. We couldn’t drive our camper out because the boom gate was down and we didn’t have an entry card. So that was that….missed that experience.
But not so. We decided to stay another night in Ypres so that we could see the ceremony. The next night was a clear sky, very cold but the thermals were coming in handy!! We walked 10 minutes from our camp site and joined about 150 people. There were 4 bugle players who played the Last Post and
a school lad who played the bagpipes. There was a wreath laying section of the ceremony where a number of different people, both uniformed and civilian, laid wreaths in memory of the 250,000 Belgiums who lost their lives. All up, there were 550,000 people who lost their lives during the 4 year battle in this region. Horriffic!
The next morning we went into the town centre where there was a massive parking area surrounded by lovely buildings including the Cloth Hall, Town Hall, the old Seignory Building and St Martin’s Cathedral. We got a park easily and then visit the Cloth Hall was where the Tourist information centre was.
Cloth Hall served as a covered sales and storage place for cloth on the waterway called the Ieperlee. You might be interested to know that during the Middle Ages Ypres was a flourishing trade centre. In those days Ypres was one of the main Flemish cloth centres next to Bruges (spelt Brugges in English) and Ghent.
The construction of the hall was completed in 1304. During the 1914-18 war the building was completely destroyed except for a section of the tower and a couple of walls.
the Cloth Hall is also the In Flanders Fields Museum which is one of the best war museums we have visited. There were excellent descriptions of the stages of war, the life of a soldier, displays of soldier’s uniforms (British, French, Belgium & German), examples of artillery, as well as information on bunkers and other war time strategies. There was also an electronic table that showed how the Germans advanced through Belgium and how the Allied troops fought back. There were several movies telling of the emotions that doctors and nurses and soldiers went through. Always in the background there was eerie music playing so it set the serious and sad mood for the whole experience.
We bought a Ypres Salient from Battlefield to Killing Field
book for Tourist car route, so we drove around the region visiting many Commonwealth War Cemetery. The book gave descriptions of the history of the sites we visited. The most notable cemetery was the Tyne Cot cemetery in the Polygon Woods which is the biggest Commonwealth war cemetery with 12,000 graves. Wow, was that overwhelming. Another cemetery we visited was the Essex Farm Cemetery where there was a headstone of a
15 year old boy. Very sad.
During the First World War the town was reduced to a heap of rubble. Ypres was almost entirely destroyed by 4 years of senseless violence. The citizens of Ypres rebuilt their city with respect for the past.
Our visit to Ypres was fascinating and well worth the 2 days we stayed there. We were now off to Brugges in Belgium.
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