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Poppies aan de Menenpoort

Think about this on November 11th.

10 november 2014

| Van

Freddy Jones

I went to Flanders fields yesterday joined by a good friend starting at the 'Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof Vladslo'. Some 25.644 young German soldiers are buried here watched over by 'the grieving parents' , sculptured by K├Ąthe Kollwitz. Her son Peter was killed in 1914 nearby. Grieving parents, how many were there all over the world... how many are there in the world?

'Westvleteren' was next. Inspired by singer Willem Vermandere we looked up the resting places of North African Muslim riflemen in the church cemetery, 'mort pour la France' it says on their graves among strange inscriptions we cannot make out. They were killed in Flanders Fields too. Are they remembered as they deserve to be remembered ? Muslims that fought for us? I don't think so...

Then came the' John McCrae site' at Boezinge where he wrote the famous ' In Flanders fields' poem in 1915. John did not survive the war. On 'Essex Farm Cemetery' only yards away, we found the grave of Rifleman Valentine J. Strudwick from Dorking/Surrey. Date of birth, february 14th 1900, hence his name although he was known under his second name Joe. He was killed in January 1916, you read well, he was 15 years old...

'Polygon Wood' Zonnebeke. ' Buttes New British Cemetery' with the memorial of the 5th Australian Division. About 10 years ago five Australian soldiers were found during construction works. With the help of modern DNA technology three of them were identified. They were reburied amongst their comrades in the presence of their families a few weeks ago. A few lines on one of the gravestones struck us, 'after 90 years of being missing in action, you can finally rest in peace'. What a story...

'Tyne Cot Cemetery' Passchendaele 11.600 buried , hundreds of them unidentified. Thousands of names of missing on a remembrance wall, why..., why, this is madness...

Ypres was totally destroyed but beautifully reconstructed. A fantastic and peaceful place is the 'Ramparts Cemetery' near the Lille Gate. From there you can walk on the ramparts to the' Menin Gate' where each evening at 20.00 hours all traffic is stopped and a beautiful ceremony takes place.

The last post was played, a British band played some slow marches, a musician brought 'oh Danny boy' on the violin, 'Oh Canada' was sung, hundreds of people wearing the poppy emblem were very quit... the end to an emotional day.

It made me think about the sense of life. It made me think about the pain wars inflict on people, wives, children and parents. It made me see that my personal little tragedies and daily problems are nothing compared with this. But before all, what is the use of remembering if we do not even get along in our back kitchens.

I hope our yesterday's experiences will inspire you to go. It is war that you will witness there , but it has done a lot of good to me and my friend and I am sure it will to you too. Thrust me.

Freddy Jones, November 10th 2014