Day 4 – 8 Apr 2019
Remembering World War I

Today was an opportunity to learn and experience “The Great War” of 1914-1918. We started by visiting Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood followed by a nearby cemetery.

Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood

Hill 62 is one of the last areas to have preserved the trenches of WWI and it provides an interesting view into the harshness of war and trench warfare.

Imagine living in these muddy trenches for months at a time?

With the constant fear of an enemy mortar whistling from the sky, exploding nearby, and sending hot shrapnel ripping though your body.

The poppy flower is the symbol of WWI remembrance.

The museum featured stacks of old shells in all various sizes.

The museum shelves were filled with WWI memorabilia from both the Allied and Central Powers.

A poster for helping identify friendly vs enemy aircraft.

A recruiting poster to join the cavalry.

Manfred von Richthofen’s, also known as The Red Baron, famous red Fokker Triplane. He is buried near Frankfurt, Germany.

Nearby was just one of hundreds of cemeteries within this area.

Here rests the bodies of men who never returned home.

So many where unnamed.

A Canadian soldier without a name.

Well wishers leave notes and their promise to never forget.

The history lesson continued as we rode our way to the city of Ypres, Belgium.

Saint Martin’s Cathedral, Ypres

This Romanesque church was completed in 1370. The church was heavily damaged during the First World War and from 1922–1930 the ruin was cleared and the church was entirely rebuilt following the original plans.

An impressive architectural building!

With beautiful stained glass windows throughout.

The church had a variety of artwork and sculptures.

A symbol of the city that stretches 102 meters high.

Just outside the church is the Ieper War Victims Monument…

…which is dedicated to remembering the 176 civilian and military victims who died during WWI and WWII from Ieper and Ypres.

In Flanders Fields Museum

The museum was named after the famous poem by Canadian John McCrae.

The displays were educational and well designed. There are hideaway sections, like this one, where the horrors of warfare are discussed and shown with photographs taken during WWI.

The weapons of warfare. The horse was a key player in the success of moving heavy machinery throughout the battlefield. Watch the movie War Horse to get a better understanding of how horses were used during WWI.

Artifacts from a sad part of our human history.

21 million people were wounded during the four years of the First World War. Many suffered the rest of their lives.

Trench warfare was hell, with not much to look forward to other than the same meals and maybe an occasional cigarette.

We walked the stone stairs to the top of the tower. Halfway up we discovered that up until 1817 there used to be a ceremony in May where the town fool would throw living cats from the tower to chase away evil spirits.

Sadly, from this height, there was no way the cats would have lived.

Fortunately, the ceremony is now changed! Every three years on the second Sunday of May there is a huge celebration and parade for our furry feline friends. A cat is still thrown from the tower; however this time it’s a velvet cat. If you catch it, you can make a wish.

The final display asks the question “Is war worth it?” This is a complicated question…

…Europe is much better off today than it was in the 1910s and 1940s…

…but it took numerous wars and unnecessary bloodshed to get to this point in history.

Perhaps it’s best if we just remember history and promise to ensure that this dark past is not repeated.

Menin Gate

The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I.

Two stone lions stand guard at the Menin Gate. These were gifted from the Australian Government to the city of Ypres.

Red Poppy wreaths are dedicated to those who died while serving their country.

So many names…

…The memorial lists 54,896 names. All of them have unknown graves.

After visiting the sites of Ypres, Belgium we made our way across the border to France and then found a campsite near the beaches of Normandy. Tomorrow we will begin our tour of the La voie de la Liberté (Liberty Road).

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