Prior to going, I felt uncomfortable sharing my family story of why we were spending our summer holiday at battlefield sites in Europe. I felt uncomfortable talking about the collective inspiration found in civilization building computer games, poems read in assemblies every November in school, Battlefield 1942, Platoon, The Pacific, and Band of Brothers, to name just a few. (Nope, not all Bugs Bunny, Lego and the Game of Life at our house.) It's true, admitting an interest in war history is awkward, at least to me.
But nothing compares to being on the ground, at the battle site, feeling uncomfortable witnessing the ultimate discomfort of so many who experienced WWI and WWII first hand, and still rest there with or without graves. Or reading in museums about the over 5o million dead from WWII. It was extremely unsettling standing in In Flanders Fields Museum listening to the shearing sounds of bombs dropping from overhead. And walking around the 11,856 graves at Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. And reading the names of 54,389 missing soldiers, whose names are etched on the Menin Gate Memorial. And the medical bunker full of Canadian mementoes. And the emotional videos on personal stories from civilian survivors in Bastogne. And then there is Anne Frank's bedroom in Amsterdam. The list goes on.
Now, I share with you In Remembrance, a focus on WWI battle sites of the Ypres Salient:
A medical bunker at the site of where Major John McRae was believed to have written "In Flanders Fields" in 1915.
Essex Farm Cemetery, one of 160 within the Ypres Salient battle sites. I believe I heard someone say it took a team of five people seven days to keep the grass in order throughout all 160 sites.
St. Julian Monument marks where 18,000 Canadians on the British Front withstood the first German gas attacks in 1915. 2,000 fell and lied buried nearby. This day, locals were spraying weeds.
Tyne Cot Cemetery, with many visitors and their fallen tears keeping the grass green. One of the most emotional sites...
Common wooden crosses found throughout the Ypres Salient. Simple, yet says so much.
8:00pm every night since 1927 buglers sound the Last Post to commemorate those who gave their lives for Belgium's freedom. The Menin Gates name the 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers, including 6,983 Canadians, without known graves.
A pack of cards showing a propoganda wartime poster.