because people speak English
My father and his wife are doing some traveling this month. Their cruise ship made a stop in Belgium this week, and my stepmom shared an excerpt from her travel diary that I thought you might be interested in. The poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae is one that most Canadian children learn in school, and it is interesting to learn more of the history behind it. My stepmom gave me permission to share her excerpt with you. I hope you find this post as interesting as I did. Maybe it will inspire you to invite a guest to your blog! May 18th is "International Museum Day". Why not ask a friend or family member to write about a museum?
In Flanders Fields
We were already docked in Zeebrugge when we went for breakfast at the buffet. Then we went to the Celebrity Theatre to meet up with our tour to Flanders Fields. The tour guide was excellent and although it was a 7 hour tour, we were so glad we took it.
First, we travelled about an hour from the port to Ypres and the Tyne Cot Cemetery. This cemetery is the largest of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in the world with over 12,000 tombstones and then a large wall with names of the missing. We were stunned to discover that more than ¾ of the tombstones simply read “Known to God”. The battles were so ferocious that the majority of the dead could not be identified.
The next stop was Ypres and the In Flanders Field Museum. We arrived about noon and had until 2:30 before we needed to meet the guide. The museum was amazing and we could have spent the whole day there. But we left after 1 ½ hours and had lunch in a nearby restaurant on the main square. The weather was chilly but the sidewalk area was closed in enough to make it pleasant to sit outside. Ypres is a beautiful town. It was completely destroyed in WWI with only 5 buildings left and rebuilt as part of the German war reparations.
At 2:30 we met the guide and walked to the Menin Gate. It is a memorial dedicated to 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. They ran out of space to list all the missing and inscribed another 34,984 missing on the walls at Tyne Cot! Every evening they still play the Last Post at the Menin Gate. The only time they didn’t do it was during WWII. We were stunned to discover that more than half a million Allied troops died in Belgium during WWI and there are 137 CWGC cemeteries in Belgium.
Our last stop was the Essex Farm Cemetery where John McCrae wrote his famous poem and where he was a field doctor and treated wounded and gassed victims. It was a small cemetery and one of the most touching sights was the grave of 15 year old Valentine Joe Strudwick who was a rifleman. His grave was decorated with poppies and even a teddy bear.
Probably the best ship excursion we've ever taken!
From the travel diary of Mrs. C. Benwell
P.S The poppies were not blooming in Flanders Fields. Apparently we just missed them and they will bloom in a couple of weeks.
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