Military History Tours Armistice Day Centenary Tour 14 November 2018
What a great last day of battlefield touring, the sun was shining, the dog barking, donkey braying, did not see too many birds, but I am sure they would have been chirping if they could have been seen.
We started out at Hill 60, Don gave the brief, it was detailed, we then toured the site and were rather grateful for the elevated walkways where available. With the recent rain, and dew still on the ground it was easy to slip on the muddy paths. John Lee gave a great explanation of how the concrete bunker would have been used, then the tour group was led past the British and French memorials to the railway cutting that gave up its soil for the hill. We then visited one of the few remaining craters from 1917. Afterwards we inspected the Australian Tunnelling Company memorial complete with World War 2 bullet holes.
Back on the bus we headed for Black Watch Corner, on the way John Hitchen gave a comprehensive account of the Menin Road Battle. The tour group left the bus at Black Watch Corner to walk the trails of Polygon Wood, heading for the cemetery and 5th Division Memorial. John Lee told the story of another successful if costly victory.
On our bus we headed for Johan and Nathalia’s De Dreve Café for coffee/beer. There we were appraised of Johan’s plans for a brothers in arms memorial. Johan had found the body of a soldier mummified in Flanders mud with his eyes open and had researched his death. The man had a brother who was in the same unit and Johan found an account of consolation as death overcame the fatally wounded man. Johan conceived a memorial to those siblings who had served together. He has purchased ˝ ha of land and already built the foundations. He has spoken to Louis Laumen who sculpted the horsemen on the National Boer War Memorial Anzac Parade, Canberra and has a model of the proposed statue. He is now trying to raise the money necessary for the structure.
Our last stop was Tyne Cott cemetery, largest of the CWG cemeteries. Adjacent the enclosure there was a briefing on the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge and the tragedy at Passchendaele. Don then summarised and brought together the actions that led to Australia shortening the war.
Many guests chose to spend the last couple of hours of daylight rambling through Ieper, all returned for dinner at 1900.
An early night, tomorrow we head for Calais and London.