Memorials Of World War I

Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

MEMORIALS OF WORLD WAR I

Date: 1st June 2013

MEMORIALS OF WORLD WAR 1


Friends invited me to join them on a two day trip to Northern France to stay with friends of theirs and also to visit some WWI Memorials.

We visited ThiepVal and Vimy Ridge as well as several other smaller cemeteries to the fallen.

I had no idea of the immense size of some of these memorials. ThiepVal is a massive Lutyens edifice covered in the inscribed names of those who fell in battle and for whom there is no known grave. There are also rows and rows of War Graves Commission headstones- some with names and some with Regimental Badges but bearing words such as Unknown, Known Only to God. I can only think that the insignia was found but there were not enough remains to establish identity. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

We then moved on to Vimy Ridge and nothing could have prepared me for that memorial. It is a memorial to the Canadians and comprises two huge Pylons with various carvings of figures. I cannot do it justice but would suggest that you look it up on the Internet where you will find the complete explanation of the meaning of the sculpture which took 11 years to complete back in 1938 and several years to refurbish more recently. Again thousands of names are inscribed around the base – all men, mostly young, who died in the senseless slaughter and for whom there is no known resting place.

We also made our way to the South African Memorial but arrived just after it closed and we were unable to fully admire the beautiful etched glass depicting battle scenes. I’ve done my best and will post photos in the Gallery.

My friends’ friends told us of a small cemetery not far from where they lived which alongside the Memorial Stones to the fallen from WWI also contained six headstones of a Bomber Crew who’d come down in a field not far away. By some miracle, one of the crew, an Australian called Morrison, was thrown from the wreckage and survived, helped by the villagers and the Resistance. The story goes that the Germans wouldn’t let the villagers approach the stricken plane to see if they could offer help but I rather suspect that all the crew were dead on impact and could not have been helped anyway.

We also saw a poignant memorial to four Resistance workers – their faces forever preserved in bas-relief. It was sad enough that they were executed but it came at the end of the war when the Germans were already defeated.

And as we were travelling I spied a memorial by the side of the road and was sure I'd seen the year as 1870.  On our return we did stop and sure enough it was a memorial to the Franco-Prussian War.

I feel very strongly indeed that youngsters, before they leave school, should be taken on a Battlefield tour to see these monuments and see the yards and yards and yards of names of young men not much older than themselves, who gave their lives for our freedom. It is so easy to see a figure like 70,000 (only a fraction of the millions who lost their lives) but it doesn’t hit home until you see all those etched names or see the endless rows of off-white headstones in the immaculately kept cemeteries to the fallen.

When you think of so many – certainly not all – of the young today with their selfish attitude to life and their have it all mentality, it makes you wonder whether the sacrifice of so many was actually worthwhile. Young men fought to join up – often lying about their ages, simply eager to ‘do their duty’ for King and country. I think many would be ‘turning in their graves’ to see the state of this country today.

As you know, I can only post one photo per blog so will put more into the Gallery for your perusal.

 


 

MEMORIALS OF WORLD WAR I

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