SSNS Home > Senior Years > Curricula 9-12 > Grade 11 > Canadian History > Battlefields Tour > 5 August 2010

 

5 August 2010, Thursday
Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery, Bedford House Cemetery, and Passchendaele
by Raymond Shirritt-Beaumont

 

We returned in late morning to the Ypres Salient via A25, exiting just before Armentières, and following the same route we travelled the previous day. The country is rural with lush green fields and neat brick farm buildings, in the Flemish style, on both sides of the France-Belgium border. On our way, we came across Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery and stopped to take a look. It is a lovely, well-cared-for sanctuary next to open fields and neat little farms. This is a place where all kinds of small cemeteries were consolidated after the war, and there are many unknown soldiers here, some whose regiments are identified, but no more. Many of the headstones were in poor repair, but others had been replaced, indicating that there is an ongoing program of maintenance. I wondered why they had chosen such a soft stone for memorials, and whether or not there is any protective coating that can be applied to them today.

A little further up the road, we stopped at Bedford House Cemetery, which is on the site of an old Chateau that was completely destroyed during WWI. There were many soldiers buried here. We walked through the first cemetery, and at one point along what remains of the old moat, we found a small brick ruin below ground level that included a fireplace inset. I could imagine happier times with the servants making the master’s meals in that very fireplace. How war can change everything!

We proceeded to Ypres, turned right just before the Bailleul Gate, and drove through Zellebeke and Zonnebeke on our way to Paschendaele, near which our great uncle was killed in WWI. We entered the town from the west on a narrow, paved road, passing Tyne Cot Cemetery on our left as we drove up to the top of the ridge. We were very near Meetcheele, where enemy soldiers in a fortified pillbox killed many of the PPCLI as they advanced on 30 October 1917. Our uncle died near here the same day.

We drove through Paschendaele to the Canadian monument on the east side overlooking a valley. We had lunch here and took pictures before proceeding on our journey. It had been raining in July when our tour group visited this place, but today it was sunny and warm.

Later in the day, we drove back into Ypres through the Menin Gate. We tried to visit the Cloth Hall, but the last tour was at 5:00 p.m., and we had missed it by 20 minutes. We also tried to get into St. Martin’s Cathedral, but there were church services going on. However, a carnival midway was in full swing in the main square, and that we took in. Little Emmeline enjoyed the rides, while the boys tried their hand at target shooting. They were pretty good at it, too, earning a few little prizes, including a stuffed “Kitty” that Emmeline chose as a companion to the doll her mother bought her. We stayed for about an hour, after which we drove back to Lille to get ready for the trip to Vimy Ridge the following day.

 

 

Liam, Emmeline, and Kieran at Oosttaverne
Arrival at the Passchendaele Memorial
Wan by the Passchendaele Monument
A view from the monument across a valley to the northeast
The view across the valley to the left of Meetcheele
Another view to the southwest of the monument
 
The children in front of massive St. Martinís Cathedral, Ypres