Belgium

Passendaele Village
Passendale Village

During the Battle of Passchendaele 1917 nine Canadians won the Victoria Cross, seven of them in or near the village of Passendale (as it is now called). They were: Robertson, Barron, Holmes, Kinross, O’Kelly, Pearkes, Shankland, McKenzie and Mullin. The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ieper is dedicated to the almost 55,000 Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. The names engraved on the panels, walls of the terraces and stairways of the Memorial include those of nearly 7,000 Canadians. Every evening since 1928, at precisely eight o’clock, except during WWII when Ieper was occupied by the Germans, the Last Post – the traditional salute to the fallen warrior – has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial. The Menin Gate Buglers are past and present members of the Ieper Fire Brigade. The photograph below was taken in June 2006 during the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. In the centre is Antoine Verschoot MBE, Chief Bugler with 50 years service.

The Last Post Ceremony, Menin Gate, June 2006
The Last Post Ceremony, Menin Gate, June 2006

Leaving Railway Wood.

On my first visit to the battlefields in 2005 there was a light snowfall on the morning of April 9 as we left Ieper. We had a long day ahead of us, covering ground which would include the Battles of Mount Sorrel, 1916, Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April 1917 and Canal Du Nord 1918.

We took the track which skirts Railway Wood, heading towards the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Memorial at Westhoek. We stopped just past Railway Wood for me to get some photographs of the landscape. As I turned back to look at the wood, I saw a line of ghostly figures emerging from the wood, heads bowed…

‘…the next day the battle abated with the Patricias having only four officers and one hundred and fifty men left. Their turn came to be relieved. Lt. Niven formed them up behind the trench and marched at the head of the column, carrying the colours, past Bellewaerde Lake, Railway Wood down to the Menin Road cheered by all the troops they passed…’

Author of quote: Howard Martin. Link is now dead.