Some Battlefields

Trip Start Aug 23, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Realising that I was quickly digging a trench, which actually had started out as a little rut, it meant I had to get away, away from the way of life that I was now entrenched in. We had moved into a flat, and were quickly settling down, and then I spied a trip on the BT intranet. It was a cheap fair to either France or Belgium. When I mentioned this to my mate Paul, he said fuck that, we can do it cheaper. We will take my car, go on the train and spend the weekend looking at battlefields in the Somme and in the Flanders area. He quoted it all up, and the plan was now set in stone. Also, working at BT was a guy called Mini Me, who is a legend on WW1 sites, so after a little talk, we new what we were getting ourselves into

Friday, we left work. Lucy had met us, and we took off for some beers with his girlfriend Julie. We hadn't seen her since Bangkok, and she sure does like a drink or twelve !!! So we had food and twelve drinks, and then died for the night.

Fuck it, we had to get up fucking early, and my head wasn't working. A quick dose of twelve panadols, well, you do need one for each drink, and then we were on our way to Le Shuttle. And just to make sure that the day started in the grandest way, we were pulled for a drugs search in the UK, and then our train was cancelled. Oh well, it gave me time for the twelve panadols to work there way inside me.

So we waited and waited and waited some more, until it was our time to get on the train.

35 minutes later, we rolled off in France, and I did my best impression of being a navigator. Normally, Lucy does this, because many years ago, Lucy was driving in Germany, and we had to get to Antwerp. We kind of ended up in Amsterdam, so I have been the dedicated driver ever since !!! In Arras, I managed to get us lost, four u-turns later, we had found our way out and we were on our way. AGAIN

As we drove into the Somme area, we came across a little cemetery called the Adelaide. We stopped as Lucy is from there, and wanted the photos. Onwards we moved and we came across the main Australian one. Villers Bretonneux. It was a huge site. Loads of graves and what amazed me even more, even though I knew it was here, was the fact that during WW2, the Allies and the Germans had fought over the same ground, and it was covered in shrapnel wounds. We had a quick bite there and then made our way to Lochnagar Crater. Apparently, the Allies, tunneled in, set some explosives up, made this crater, and it was still short of the German front line. Rumour has it, that the explosion was that big, you could hear it in England. As I made my way around, I came across a cross, a soldier had gone MIA here in 1916, and they found his body in 1998 !!! As we drove, we came across more cemeteries and ended up in Pozieres. There were some Frenchies dressed up as Aussie soldiers, as the Aussies had rescued this village 90 years before. Also, there were some Germans, dressed as German soldiers. They had come back to see if they could make a difference. They didn't !!! Next was the largest British Memorial where they hold there Armastice Day celebrations. Thiepval Memorial is huge. There are names and crosses all over the place. In the museum, there are some interesting films to see, and it is amazing how this whole place was flattened and then had been re-built. Around the corner was a replica of a little Irish tower. Worth a few photos, but it was getting late, so Paul put his foot down, and I managed not to get anyone lost, and we arrived in Ypers. We dumped the bags, poured down a few quick Belgium beers, and went to the Menin Gate. We were here for the Last Post. It was my fourth time here, but I had never seen it. As it was playing, it made me think about my best friend Lawrie, who had been tragically killed and also of his Father, who had served during WW2. After it finished, I washed away my sorrows with beers !!!

As this is Belgium, and the beer here is good, there was no hangover to speak of. We went chocolate hunting and found the store that we went to last time where Lucy's Mother had stolen all of the chocolates that were meant to be for tasting. We bought up, because they were good. In fact, we ate so many in there, that we didn't need breakfast. We had a walk around the town, before we took the decision to buy a book on some of the Flanders Fields. Lucy and me had done the same route back in 98, and were really impressed, so off we went. We stopped off at Essex Farm, and had a look at some old bunkers which were used as a hospital. Next was a German Cemetery. We had been here before and it was still moving. Seeing the giant slabs with names of the buried, is always an eye opener. We passed another Canadian monument. It was huge, and all I could think of was that they want to be bigger and better than America because they are not America !!! And then around the corner, we came across Tyne Cot Cemetery. After Menin Gate, this is the largest monument to the fallen in Belgium. There is a huge section for New Zealanders, and there are also two old bunkers. In the centre of the Cemetery, there is a cross, with an announcement that this site was taken by the Aussies. Below it, there use to be another bunker, long removed though. We had a quick look at Passendale, another village that had been completely demolished. and as we were now hungry, we found the Old Cheese Factory for lunch. The cheese was nice and so was my Passendale beer, which was brewed on the premises. We had one last place to visit. Hill 62. We had pulled up outside it years ago, but had not gone in, so we bit the bullet, paid, and entered. Inside, were all old photo viewers showing 3d type images of what it was like. There were also garish photos of dead people and half a horse up a tree. In the next room, were old bullets which looked like they were still ready to be shot. Outside, the place was full of old trenches. They say that they are original, right down to the old gal sheets. I think they are full of shit. There were also some concrete lined tunnels, no lights, and I managed to get through them. It wasn't hard, really. And then we were done. Back into the car and on our way back to France and England

With that done, we had completed our first weekend away since being back. We had completely over-estimated the size of the place. We have been to Flanders, and it was great to see the Last Post, but I think next time, we will concentrate just on the French side of things
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