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In Flanders Fields

John McCrae's Poem Illustrated

semi-overcast 10 °C

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

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The guns of the First World War still drown out the songs of larks after a hundred years. Bombs, mortars and shells are ploughed up every day by farmers and construction workers. Some explode; killing and maiming. Millions of unexploded munitions, a third containing lethal poison gas, lie beneath these seemingly peaceful fields in Flanders…
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Piles of recovered munitions are left by the roadsides for collection by bomb disposal teams, (and unofficial relic hunters) and it is estimated that it will take another hundred years before the all clear is finally given.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

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More than a hundred war cemeteries dot the landscape around the small city of Ypres, but many of the dead were never found; their bodies blown to smithereens or swallowed into the thick mud churned up by millions of shells. The Menin gate in Ypres bears the names of fifty five thousand Commonwealth soldiers who were never found, but it is just one of many such memorials...
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In a moving daily ceremony since the 1920s, the Last Post has been sounded here more than 30,000 times by the Ypres firemen to honour the men of Britain, Canada and the Commonwealth, who fought for the freedom of Belgium.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Canadian doctor John McCrae wrote his epic wartime poem “In Flanders Fields” in this dressing station following the burial of a good friend precisely 100 years ago …
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On the 22nd April 1915, the Canadian 1st Division was stationed near the village of Saint Julien, at a place now named Vancouver Corner, when the German Army unleashed the war’s first poison gas attack. The 1st Division was decimated. This statue known as ‘The Brooding Soldier’ was erected in memorium on land which has been given to Canada in perpetuity…
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The medieval city of Ypres was totally destroyed during the 4 years of trench warfare, but its iconic buildings were faithfully restored after the war using the original 15th century plans. This is the magnificent Wool Hall…
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The war to end all wars, in which some 50 million people died, was simply the starting point of an endless series of wars, and as Remembrance Day approaches we know that there are all too many in the world who are willing to repeat the dreadful mistakes of the past. Perhaps those warmongers and haters would learn a lesson here in Flanders Fields – but perhaps they would not.

Posted by Hawkson 09:05 Archived in Belgium

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Comments

Yes It was a sorrowful time. I went to Nanoose Bay for many years to the Base where they allowed US Submarines to use the deep water to "practise" them. Many of us were arrested there but were later released.

by Jean McLaren

Very fitting post as November llth approaches. Your last sentence said it all.

by R and B

And then they did it all over again within a generation. Too sad to contemplate for long.

by Tom

This time last week we spent a powerful day visiting the Great War battle sites with you. We had a very moving evening at the Menin Gate there was a Scottish pipe band and regiment laying wreaths, it was poignant. Enjoyed chatting over lunch, will follow your travels

by Jacque Mcneill

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