- Nov 12, 2009
A Birmingham choir that I sing with embarked upon a singing tour of Belgium last year, and besides singing in Bruges and Ghent Cathedrals, we laid wreaths on behalf of various Birmingham organisations and sang at Tyne Cot CWGC cemetery and Essex Farm, a CWGC cemetery which was a dressing station during World War 1.Thingy said:From my visits to France I’ve learnt no country wins a war they just all lose, some lose more than others
I tend to agree with that statement in general, though all of us that have seen the elephant would like to think that there was a reason for it and in the end we did some good. Plus I dread to think of the world we would live in had Nazi Germany been victorious in the replay. Take a stroll around Dachau, Mauthausen or Auschwitz and its plain to see that we at least had a moral victory.
The cemetery at Caen contains an awful lot that were killed in Operation Goodwood, a proper debacle if ever there was one. I know what you mean about lines of men from the same Regts, but take a look at some of the WW1 Cemeteries, in particular the larger ones like Tyne Cot. We visited that on a typical Paschendaele day, General Rain had arrived, it was misty and a piper was playing.
Some of the smaller ones too can be very emotive, the Devons Cemetery on the Somme for one. On the gate is the sentiment "The Devons held this trench, they hold it still". The French "Trench of the Bayonets" is also very emotive. Many people see the War Graves and yes, they are moved, but to them its just another cemetery, but dig deeper and every cemetery has a story too. Take the German Cemetery at Langemarck. By the way, Langemarck is where Britiain first used poison gas. By the entrance is a small garden surrounded by an 18 inch wall. People entering see a shrub garden, it is actually the mass grave of over 25000 German soldiers. On the Menin Gate is listed the names of many Indian Regiments, with names straight from a Hollywood movie. 45th Rattrays Sikhs as an example.
For anyone visiting the battlefields, there are a series of books called Major and Mrs Holts Battlefield Guides and they cover all the cemeteries and their hidden stories in great detail. The War graves Commision also do Michelin maps with all the cemeteries overlaid on them, and what a sight that is.
As for the younger generation, fair play to the lads that did both Gulfs and Afghan, but its no secret that virtually every battalion is way below nominal strength, which may say something about the current young generation.
Lt. Colonel John McRae was a physician at Essex Farm where he wrote the well known war poem 'In Flanders Fields'.
We laid a wreath on the grave of an uncle of one of our singers and sang the musical adaptation of that poem, a very moving part of our tour..
We were honoured to be invited to sing at the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, Leper (Ypres) before we left.
As for present day recruitment, yes most regiments are well below strength, but I shouldn't imagine that the prospect of a potential criminal trial many years further down the line is much of an inducement for young people to join the army these days.