Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Granddad's WW1 Diary

Having loaded the “kids”in the back of the car we set off on our adventure to Belgium.

Armed with a transcription of Granddad’s diary from the trenches during WW1 we planned to visit some of the places mentioned in his diary, i.e. La Bassee, Bethune, Gorigue and Bailleul. Granddad survived the war by the way but died in 1968.

We picked the wrong weekend to go with putting the clocks forward as we had to forward one hour when we arrived in France on the Friday, then ANOTHER hour on Saturday! Poor mum was totally confused what time it was as she hadn't changed her "English" watch time. So funny, bless her!

Driving through France was an experience when we hit the motorway. We saw a sign “PĂ©age” and read it as Plage, thinking it was a beach but was in fact a toll as we later discovered! We pulled into the barriers and panicked a bit when it said “ticket” - ermm ... what blooming ticket? There was a queue of cars forming behind, putting pressure on us while we tried to work out what we needed to do. Then we spied a button flashing, so pressed said button and voila the ticket popped out, thus lifting the barrier. “Bloody Eeenglish!” we could almost hear them saying in the queue of traffic forming behind us!

We managed to find a few of the places mentioned in granddad’s diary and actually found reference to a date on 26th June 1916 when his Regiment, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was relieved by Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. We found a grave of a poor lad who died on the 26th June 1916 from Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, it could so easily have been granddad. That was quite heartbreaking to see.

Laventie Military Cemetery

We then visited Hill 62 close to our Hotel in Ypres where original WW1 trenches can be found.

The cat you see in this picture was our tour cat. He took us round the whole site of WW1 trenches, then after we'd finished he showed us round the museum ... so funny!

A couple of old relics

As you can see, mum's right arm is in plaster. She managed to break her wrist a week before we went!

This was the haunting site when we left Hill 62, still chokes me up seeing it now

When back to our Hotel (above) I got on Twitter via free wireless network and tweeted some photos. I mentioned Menin Gate in one tweet and got a tweet back from a fireman in Manchester (who I wasn’t following at the time) who asked if I could visit his Great Uncle of Leinster Regiment at Menin Gate (panel 44). The following evening we took a trip to Menin Gate and found his uncle, G. Glanfield on panel 44 and I tweeted a picture to him. He was so pleased and I was so thrilled to have been able to do this for him. It was so heartwarming to do this simple act for him.

On Saturday we visited our friends, Dirk and his wife Mieke. Dirk is the author of the book mentioned in my November Blog. We had a lovely lunch which Mieke cooked for us. Dirk then took Dad and Chris to Kemmel to visit an old bunker (mum would not have been able to manage all the steps) so Mieke took us to visit the fascinating cigarette Museum in an old Windmill which is where Mieke works. We then visited the memorial for the civilians who were lost during the raid on Courtrai which dad was on (see November blog) and spent the rest of the evening in the charming company of Dirk and Mieke.

The following day we visited the beautifiul city of Ghent and had our own personal tour guides! A few weeks ago I “met” on Twitter a lovely girl by the name of Sofie who by coincidence lived in Belgium. I tweeted with her a few times asking her the best places to visit in Belgium and mentioned we were going to Ghent on the Sunday. Imagine my surprise when she said she had spoken to her husband,Thierry, and offered to guide us round the sights! How kind was that! We jumped at the chance and arranged to meet outside the Cathedral.

The massive Sint-Baafskathedraal (St. Bavo's Cathedral) is the most interesting of several notable churches in Ghent. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries in the Gothic style, the cathedral contains a wealth of religious art.

Thierry and Sofie
Shame about the scaffolding!

The GRAVENSTEEN is the Dutch name for the 'castle of the count'. The counts of Flanders had castles built in the principal cities of the county. Because they had to maintain law and order, they continuously had to move from one city to the other. Therefore, they disposed of a castle in most cities where they wanted to stay for a few months. The castle of Ghent is the only one which survived the centuries more or less intact.

Taken from inside the Castle looking out

The weather couldn't have been more perfect

Sofie and Sandy

We had a fantastic time touring the wonderful sights of Ghent

On Monday it was time to go home.
We popped into beautiful Ypres for a bit of last-minute shopping and ....

a fabulous Belgium waffle - well, it would've been rude not to!

We took the Dunkirk route home with a view to finding the memorial for the evacuation of Dunirk during  Operation Dynamo It was a tad warmer than the last time we were on this beach in November!

She was happy .... honest!


Mum loves this pic. She asked "who took it?" Erm.....

So that was our amazing trip to Belgium once again. Hope to visit again shortly.
With thanks to Dirk & Mieke and Sofie & Thierry and also Twitter!