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Published: October 3rd 2015
I was awake early after my restless night of camping out in the storm and a good job too as my plan was to tour around the World War I battlefields so I would need plenty of time to explore. My Eyewitness Travel guide recommended to see everything within two days, but as I only had one day, I chose my key interests carefully. My guidebook recommended starting at Diksmuide and driving down towards Ypres, or Ieper to the locals!
Local people that I spoke to recommended finishing my day at Ypres because of the last post, played by buglers at Menin Gate, in memory of the 55,000 missing commonwealth soldiers. The last post is played at 8pm but I decided that I didn't want to drive around Belgium when getting late and also wanted to see my friend back in Diksmuide. I therefore decided that I would start my trip at Ypres.
Ypres is small city in the West Flanders region of Belgium. I discovered that In World War One, Ypres became synonymous with destruction, trench warfare, poisonous gas and military stalemate. The Germans swiftly advanced through Belgium in their drive to Paris but failed to take the
Ypres Salient. It was this area that three Battle of Ypres took place and nearby the Battle of Passchendaele where I understood relations of mine had lost their lives.
There is plenty to see in Ypres, from the stunning Saint Martin's Cathedral to the impressive Market Square. The beautiful warm weather had brought out the locals to the restaurants and bars as they enjoyed having lunch and drinking Belgium beer whilst sat outside in the Market Square. I couldn't resist the sweet smell of waffles and ended up having one with Kinder flavoured ice cream. Yes that's right, Kinder flavoured ice cream. It tasted amazing!! The In Flanders Fields Museum which can be located inside the town hall and is definitely worth a visit. The museum is full of interest on the war and lots of history is explained. After visiting the museum, I walked a short way to Menin Gate, which was rebuilt after the war to remember the missing soldiers who were never found. The gate has names of over 54,000 soldiers from Britain and other commonwealth countries. When reading so many names of soldiers killed in the war, I was finding it hard to not feel
choked with sadness.
After Ypres, I headed towards Passchendaele. I was keen to learn about Passchendaele as knew for sure a couple of relations lost their lives there. I first stopped of at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
. The museum is inside a beautiful old building which was refurbished back in 2004 and is situated next to a large lake that is popular with locals for fishing. Inside the museum, it's full of history on this bloody battle of Passchendaele. You can go underground in the museum to experience what it was like for the soldiers living arrangements and walk through trenches.
I then visited the nearby Polygon Wood Cemetery that seemed to be for the Australian soldiers who lost their lives. Finally, I drove to Tyne Cot Cemetery located about 1 km from the Passchendaele museum, the resting place to nearly 12,000 British soldiers and the walls that bear the names of over 34,000 soldiers missing in the Ypres Salient. I saw the name 'Stone, F' of the Gloucestershire Regiment and believe this was my great, great, great uncle Francis (Frank) Stone. He was only 19 when he died! So sad to see thousands of grave stones and missing soldier
names on the walls.
I spent my evening back at the campsite drinking Belgium beer and British cider with my travel buddy who I travelled with two years ago in Central America. I still slept in the tent but inside the campsite bar so I was safe from any further storms, although I made a terrible mistake of not closing the tent door and found myself being eatten alive by mosquitos in the middle of the night. I was looking forward to spending the next night in a hotel.
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