8. Jul, 2016

Text

FRIDAY 08-07-16

It was a very peaceful night here at Camping Jeugdstadion www.jeugdstadion.be, given that we had lost so much sleep a couple of nights ago we should both have slept like logs, but The Chef didn't get to sleep until about 04:30. Maybe there's a limit to how long you can feel comfortable sleeping in a motorhome bed, it's been about ten weeks now. Never mind we're nearly home.

Today was to have been our day out on hired bikes, but by the time we had got ready, coupled with a very cool wind we decided to do it tomorrow when hopefully the wind will have dropped, we'd have slept well, and made an earlier start.

We wandered to the edge of town as I wanted to get a few pictures of Ramparts Commonwealth Cemetery. I've got some at home on the computer, but they're no use to me there.

The cemetery is located next to the Rijselpoort (Lille) Gate, the only surviving gate in to the town out of the original ten.

The path to Ramparts Cemetery is named after the author and historian Rose Coombs. Rose wrote the first modern, illustrated guided book to the battlefields of the Western Front, entitled “Before Endeavours Fade”. I have a copy of this book at home and it's considered one of the most authoritive on the subject, right up to 'anorak' level.

Ramparts Cemetery was begun in November 1914 with French soldiers being laid to rest here. At that time a detachment of the French Army was positioned in Ypres and on the Allied Front Line to the north and north-east of the city. French soldiers were using the protection of the fortified ramparts to provide shelter and living spaces near to the Lille Gate.

From February 1915 to April 1918 the cemetery was used by Commonwealth Forces. Most of the 1915 casualties buried here were killed in February, March and April and then in July and August of that year. The casualties from 1917 include a number of Australian and New Zealand soldiers.

After the Armistice in November 1918 the French graves were removed from Ramparts Cemetery. The French soldiers would most likely have been reburied in a French National Military Cemetery.

There are 198 Commonwealth graves in the cemetery, of which 188 are identified casualties. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, and is considered to be one of the best located of all the cemeteries.

On the wall under Lille Gate are signs giving directions to nearby military cemeteries. In Belgium alone there are 379 WW1 Commonwealth cemeteries. That's proof of our commitment to Europe.

By now the weather had improved and the cool wind had dropped, to the point that my fleece was tied around my waist and my long sleeved shirt that had been worn under it, was also too warm. We decided to walk around for a bit more and then return 'home' for lunch before coming back out again.

We treated ourselves to a shandy with our lunch as we had one more can of beer left and some lemonade. We were in no great hurry to get back out, it was getting too late for a second visit to the 'In Flanders Fields' museum, something we'd promised ourselves the last time we had a look round on our way to somewhere else. It really is a very interesting place.

We decided to pop back in to town and treat ourselves to an ice cream , not just any ice cream, these are delicious and very good value for money. Located on the edge of the town square it is always busy and you have to join a queue pretty much any time of day.

Ypres (now ieper) town was bombarded and destroyed more completely than any other of its size on the Western Front. It is to the townfolks credit that it was all so meticulously rebuilt. It must have been so tempting to just clear the site and build new, bland replacements, but the workmanship and patients shown in the work is amazing. Imagine how they must have felt when, probably soon after finishing it, WW11 started and back to square one they went.

Now back 'home' my poor tired chef has gone for a lie down. I had wanted to go back down to the 20:00 Menin Gate ceremony again tonight, in the hope it is better than last nights, but I think it's best we have a restful evening  as the bikes are booked for 09:00 tomorrow, and we're off out come what may. I will however be back down at the Menin Gate tomorrow evening, and maybe all the school kids will be back home in the UK by then. I am so pleased they come out here, but I wish there weren't so many of them, it makes getting a decent viewing position more difficult.

After ten weeks on the road I am in desperate need of a haircut. We do carry hairdressing scissors and comb should I need to call upon The Chef's hairdressing skills, but I try and hold out if I can.

As a little gift to take with me I'm thinking of buying a squeeky toy for my hairdressers Guide Dog, and perhaps for my hairdresser, one of those eye covers you wear on night flights. That way we'll both know that when it comes to cutting my hair properly he'll have an excuse. I'll get a good quality thick black one, I understand Nicola Sturgeon's husband swears by them.