Today it was cloudy to start and very chilly compared to the hot weather we have enjoyed so far. In the morning, we visited the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’ which gave a comprehensive account of the Great War and the people who fought in it. The museum itself was in a huge building rebuilt after being levelled in the war.
We cycled out into the windy countryside until lunchtime where we stopped in St. Julien to see the Brooding Soldier; a memorial to the fallen Canadian forces who encountered a gas attack on the hill the memorial was placed.
We then had a brilliant lunch of baguettes, ham and creamy cheese, yum.
Next, we cycled down the road to the German Langemark Cemetery which was noticeably less well tended. There multiple soldiers in each grave and one mass grave since, after the war, the Germans looked back on the war in shame.
We then cycled to the Cross of Reconciliation which itself was on the site of a previous memorial destroyed by the Nazis because its phrasing insulted the German people.
The sun then came out warming us all up but the wind only got stronger.
After that, we visited the Yorkshire Trench North of Ypres which remains an extensive underground bunker system used to take cover from the German attack. It was discovered by the leader of the amateur archaeologist group ‘De Diggers’ led by a man called Patrick who had been excavating the trenches for 17 years before breathing in mustard gas from a gas canister and falling very ill. We met Patrick himself and his wife who showed us his own photo collection of his findings which included 155 remains of soldiers, half of them British. He then invited us to his museum which showed us how the war affected the surrounding area.
Lucy then smashed into her second bollard of the day taking out Isabelle too! Luckily neither were injured.
Finally, we payed our respects to the Essex Farm Dressing Bunker, a medical safe haven, and the adjacent cemetery. The Bunker itself was little more than a thick concrete box with every other ward being no more than three feet wide.
The teachers are now sitting outside sharing fruit juice while the rest of us are watching sport on the TV.