Trip to Ypres in Belgium 2017
CLASSICS TO WIPERS
Following the successful trip to Mametz Woods Huw planned another trip to Ypes in Belgium being there on 31st July 2017 for the 100th anniversary of the death of Hedd Wyn. Hedd Wyn (born Ellis Humphrey Evans, 13 January 1887 – 31 July 1917) was a Welsh language poet who was killed near Ypres, Belgium, during the Battle of Passchendaele in World War I. He was posthumously awarded the bard's chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod.
Ypres (leper), is a town in the Belgian province of West Flanders. It's surrounded by the Ypres Salient battlefields, where many cemeteries, memorials and war museums honor the battles that unfolded in this area during World War I. After being destroyed in the war, many important buildings were carefully reconstructed, including Gothic-style Sint-Maartenskathedraal (St. Martin's Cathedral) and its soaring spire.
Following on from last year’s trip to the Mametz Wood Centennial
ceremony, a number of the group questioned the possibility of a trip for the
next year, 2017. Organiser and SHVR member Huw Morris bowed to
numbers and organised another trip for this year, this time to visit the
battlefields of Flanders in time for the centenary services for the third
battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele and for Hedd Wyn the
Welsh poet killed during the same hostilities 100 years ago.
There were four couples from the club, including Huw and Gwenda the
organisers, Sally and I, David and Gay Evans and Howard and Alison
Spence. Just like last year, we met up for registration to get the route packs
and rally plates on the evening before the off, (26th July), but this time at
the Towers Hotel to accommodate those entrants from down west and
eastward who would need to stay overnight before leaving on the Thursday
on the first leg of the journey.
Huw is interviewed for the Welsh news.
An Austin 16. The oldest car on the run.
Dave Evans had suggested a detour to take in the Mary Rose in the
Portsmouth Dockyards. She had a new exhibition hall to better display her
details now that she had been raised upright. What a change from the last
time Sally and I were there. We had visited the remains just shortly after
they had been opened to the public and were still being sprayed constantly
to prevent further decomposition. The new setup is light years from that
first visit. They have made a complete exhibition of all of the articles
recovered from the seabed giving an insight into the life and conditions of
those aboard, in an air-conditioned building purpose built for the
One sad part of the afternoon on the dockyard, was the sight of HMS
Victory without her main masts and rigging whilst repairs and conservation
work are carried out.
HMS Victory sans main masts – sad.
Tourists always get in the way of a photo!
Upright after more than 400 years
Three tons of bronze cannon plus carriage
.After a good afternoon in the dockyard we made a short drive to Spice
Island where an evening meal had been booked by Dave for all of us,
overlooking the water of the port area, watching all the boats coming and
going. Our meal over, it was time to head for Newhaven and the DFDS
Ferry Port to board our ferry for the short crossing to Dieppe. Short, as in
not much time to sleep. Plus we would lose an hour docking French time!
It also meant an early start on the French roads well before breakfast time.
Dave had suggested heading towards Amiens as there would be a good
choice of cafés to choose from, so Dave and gay, Sally and I and Howard
and Alison set off accordingly. It was still quite early when we arrived in
Amiens but we set off to find breakfast heading we hoped, in the right
direction and happened upon an open café. When we ventured inside, we
found that ex-members, Mark and Alison and granddaughter Caitlyn had
beaten us to it and had polished off the croissants. Luckily there were a few
alternatives left for us weary travellers.
Suitably refuelled, us not the cars, we set off for Arras to see if we could
find the grave of Alison’s great uncle. Howard and Alison had a postcode
for the graveyard but despite a good search we were not having a lot of
luck. Although it was quite nice driving in the warm weather. Idea time!
Talk to locals, they must know, right? Well, they had ideas with lots of à
gauche, à droit and à droite being thrown about by all. We did find it in the
end and Alison managed to find the correct headstone after a bit of a search
amongst the records.
Flushed with success, we headed into the town centre for a spot of lunch. It
was a bit late but we managed to find an open café that purveyed light
lunch offerings rather than a three course marathon. The poor girl that had
a smattering of English had a bit of a testing time as we chose and then
changed our menu choices, but her English was far better than our French.
We left the staff in peace and set off in the direction of our hotel,
Callecanes, on the French/Belgian border near Abele, which we reached
late afternoon. If you stood in the right place, you could have one leg in
France and the other leg in Belgium! We were all ready for a hot shower
and a bit of rest before the evening group meal which Huw had arranged.
A good time was had by all; as we had got to know most of the group last
year on the French trip. We may have been a bit odd to the staff, they
weren’t quite sure what to make of us at first, but they mellowed with
Mark Francis had arranged to visit a small museum at Home Farm, which
had been obliterated during the hostilities, all bar a solitary oak tree which
had miraculously survived all the shelling and still stands in the field on its
own. The young man, grandson to the original farmer had put together a
mini museum from all the bits and pieces unearthed by his family during
their farming activities. Ploughing unearths live shells to this day, which
are collected by the bomb disposal squad once a month for disposal.
During one of these ploughing jobs he had unearthed a piece of British
tank; this was quickly spirited away into his museum display. His interest
in the design of our tanks led him into obtaining a set of design drawings
for one, which needless to say, led on to his building a Mk5 tank of his
own in the barn which we were allowed to wander around.
These are ones we dug up on the farm.
A full size replica under construction.
|A piece of a Mk5 tank from their farm.||
This month’s crop awaiting collection.
The lucky Oak tree stands alone.
German bunker in the back garden.
He was a very well informed young man with a genuine interest in the past
technology and knew all about everything in his self-funded collection.
Apparently his grandfather kept trying to blow-up the bunker in the garden
but it was too close to back of the house!
We visited Passchendaele later that day and chose a bar for lunch, where
we were told that they only did full lunches. If we wanted a snack, go
across to the baker’s and get a sandwich. Then you can come back here
and eat it and have a drink. Can you imagine that happening over here??
Not a chance! So we did as we were told and took our sandwiches back to
the bar and had a drink, very civilised.
After our lunch we decided to visit the nearby Tyne Cot cemetery. It is the
biggest War Graves Commission cemetery in the world with nearly 12,000
head stones and the names of some 34,000 soldiers whose remains have
never been found, engraved onto stone panels around the walls. The name
comes from a building which stood nearby, Tyne Cottage, which became a
German bunker, which is now under the Cross of Remembrance in the
middle of the cemetery.
The cemetery at Tyne Cot.
Practice for tomorrow’s service.
We sat and watched a lot of the rehearsals for the ceremony taking place
tomorrow morning. Talking to the director, we mentioned going to see the
Menin Gate on the Sunday, only to be told that we wouldn’t get into the
centre of Ypres without a pass and that we should go today. We went
straight to Ypres and parked up on the roadside to walk into the centre.
Luckily Dave and Gay had stayed in the town last year so knew where we
could get a decent meal. The centre was packed and the crowd around the
barriers at the Menin Gate were already 15 to 20 deep. We weren’t going
to see a great deal, but we could hear everything. After the ceremony we
bumped into some of the soldiers who had been practicing their parts. We
met our Prime Minister, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Belgian Prime
Minister, although they turned out to be Royal Marines with their aliases
around their necks. They were standing in for the real celebrity’s at the
Synchronised breathing recommended!
The Duchess is on the left, our PM centre!
We stayed on to watch some more of the rehearsals in the town square for
the events which were going to televised in the UK, before heading back to
our hotel in preparation for our visit to Artillery Road Cemetery, resting
place of Hedd Wyn the Welsh poet.
We arrive at the Artillery Wood Cemetery
Private 61117 Ellis Evans – Hedd Wyn.
We arrived in convoy that morning where S4C were going to film the cars
and owners at Hedd Wyn’s grave. They were late! Interviews and filming
done we all went off on our own explorations. We ended up at a museum
with Dave and Gay which had an intact trench complex. Some of the tree
remains still had shrapnel in them from the bombardments.
Lunch called and we found a nice roadside bar/restaurant which also had a
museum on part of the premises, luckily Dave noticed a lunch and museum
ticket deal. A lot of these small museums are very well put together and
well worth a visit if you are in the area.
|Trenches are still semi desolate even now.||The broken trees are now memorials|
|The Welsh Memorial Garden Langemark.||We arrive to check things out for the service|
Our last event was the service at the memorial park, attended by Prince
Charles, Carwen Jones and other dignitaries which took place on the
Monday afternoon. There was a huge crowd in attendance for the
proceedings including a large security presence with road blocks all over
the area. Huw had arranged for all of our cars to be displayed on the field
alongside the road opposite the memorial. Following the end of the service
the cars provided a small classic car show for the visitors. Chris Coleman,
the welsh team manager took time to have a good look at the cars and
chose the Morris 1000 of Bob Jones as his favourite.
A last meal together in the hotel restaurant rounded off the trip on Monday
evening before we headed off to our rooms to pack for the journey home
early in the morning.
We had a great time with a good bunch of friends and saw and did a lot ina short time,
Thanks for your efforts Huw and Gwenda, where next??