We woke at 5am this morning. Up, washed, dressed and in the minibus by 6am. Drove the half hour to the Eurotunnel port and boarded the train.
Just under an hour later we arrived in France to beautiful sunshine. We stopped for a quick cup of coffee and a snack before making our way towards Belgium.
We did stop off at Wimereux Cemetery near Boulogne to pay our respects there. It was in the opposite direction to Belgium, but well worth the detour.
We found a few Nurses and even a VAD buried there among the many many fallen soldiers. Wench Karen even found a soldier with the same surname as her.
We had a lovely reflective walk around the headstones, which uncommonly are all laid flat. It was very humbling.
Our next stop was The Ariane Hotel in Ypres for lunch. What a fantastic place, with delicious food too. The venue and weather were both beautiful.
After lunch we headed towards the place we are staying for the next few days, Varlet Farm in Ypres Salient. On the way through St Julien we stopped to see The Brooding Soldier, a magnificent memorial to the Canadian Forces.
Arriving at Varlet Farm we were all impressed with it. Given the name “Varlet Farm” by British soldiers during WW1 and appears as such on original trenchmaps. The original farm, situated on Passchendaele territory and strongly fortified by the Germans, was finally taken by the “Hood Battalion”, Royal Naval Division, after fierce fighting in October 1917. Nothing of the original farm remained by 1918. In 1922 rebuilding commenced just a few metres from the original site
It is quite humbling to think of all those thousands of men whose lives were lost right on the ground we are now standing on!
After the most amazing slice of homemade apple cake we settled our bags into our rooms and had a few hours rest. Then we went to Ypres for some food and to watch the ceremony at the Menin Gate. Breathtaking to hear the last post being bugled under the echoey arch of the gate surrounded by the thousands of names of the fallen with no known grave.