Day 4 - the last day: Today we woke up knowing that by tonight we'd be sleeping in our own beds, but before that we had 3 more desitinations to visit on our tour of the World War One Battlefields. Our first stop was back in Ypres, revisiting the Menin Gate. Our focus question for the day was "Is remembrance more or less important 100 years on." We looked carefully at the names on the memorial, considering the contributions made by members of the British Empire, most of whom came a very long distance, voluntarily, to serve King and Empire... the Indians, the Nepalese, the South Africans, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the Canadians. We then walked into the town to visit a pottery where we each made a specially designed clay figure, which will become part of a memorial art installation to be placed in No mans land in 2018. There will be 600,000 figures in total; one for each soldier and civilian who died on Belgian soil during the First World War.
We then travelled to Langemark Cemetery, a German burial site. The children expected the gravesite to be different than those established and kept by the CWGC, and they were right. All of the grave markers were in a black stone and instead of a cleared site, the German soldiers, many of whom died elsewhere and were brought here for their final burial, lie beneath oak trees. The sheer number of soldiers interned at the site is staggering, 44,000. This makes it significantly larger than any CWGC cemetery or memorial site.
We finished our tour at Theipval Cemetery and Memorial, the largest of the all of the Commonweath and Empire memorials. We all began the trip by loggin onto a website designed to help us find out more about the lives of the people of the First World War. We researched Edward Card of the Somerset Light Infantry who died somewhere on the Ypres Salient. His body was never found and he is remembered by the engraving of his name on a panel on the memorial wall. Fittingly, it was raining as we looked across the vast landscape, which set the somber tone for our final moments of personal reflection.
I know Alex and Anna have learned an enormous amount of the battles of the Ypres Salient and the Somme. I have learned so much as well. However, I think what we will all take away most from this experience is just how important it is to remember the individual people. Individuals who had families and people who loved them, but who were all willing to risk their lives, and many who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today.
We look forward to sharing our Legacy Project with you soon.