On Visiting the Yprés Salient (Article)

As I write this I am sitting at “The Walker” tabac (pub) in Yprés, Belgium.  I am here with a Bockor, local beer, a pils.  Yes I am making conversation, to turn a phrase.  I am stuck for words slightly, which may be difficult for me.  But let me show you why.



That is the view I have.  The New Menin Gate.  A sea of names and pomp, to quote the poet Sasoon.  I have a small video that I will post up soon on YouTube maybe.  We don’t have long left here, to get home for the evening.  Our job here in Fromelles and the CWGC project draws to a close and so I visited Yprés, as I must.  A troop of British squaddies have just walked by.  Below is a video on Vimeo of the experience.

Click to Watch Video

And still I have not spoken of the Gate.  I am upset, in ways, but more… Shocked is not quite the word.  Still absorbing, I have come to terms more with what I read in the books of the past since coming over to France, and at first to see so many graves, of so many young men, of so many countries, was a great shock.  Now less a shock more an acceptance of yes that is history.  Sour as it may taste that is reality.



Walking closer, gave me the perspective of Sasoon and the understanding of how he felt.  Walking through it, flooded with names one thing stood out.  “Lest we Forget,” and I wonder what it is we are not to forget.  I wonder whether it is something we have ever remembered.  This colossal loss of life.  This savagery that overcame us as a species.  That still today continues.  That today being here can make us proud, that can fill us with thoughts of individuals, that we only think of the whole.  All such thoughts are blown to the scattered winds like the embers that were blown over the fields of Flandres, while Yprés was shelled for so many years.


I have no answer and I have no ways of how one should think.  Indeed I have no way to consider how I should think.  All I can say for sure is of how the awe of the place, of the event has struck me.  No more shall World War One be merely a prelude to World War Two.  For me I have became history.



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