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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Ypres 11/11/2016

The Cross in the Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres, Belgium. The cross in relief against the beautiful sunset was a lovely sight.

This year to commemorate Armistice Day we went on a coach trip to visit some of the First World war cemeteries, and to attend the Last Post Ceremony which is held every evening at 8pm at the Menin Gate, Ypres. We travelled from Kent via the Channel Tunnel, and below is the first cemetery we visited.

A beautiful cemetery whose name I don't know, this one is situated on the outskirts of a small village. It is very sobering to see the ranks of gravestones, knowing that each one represents a young man who fought, and gave his life for his country.

All the cemeteries we visited were beautifully kept by The War Graves Commission, except for one, which I will talk about later in this blog.

The Yorkshire trench built in 1917, situated at Boezinge, near the Essex Farm ADS (Advance Dressing Station.) Just a few yards away at ground level are a series of duck board paths, these show the position of the earlier 1915 trenches. It was great to to be able to go down into the trench, but it was very narrow, and the thought of men 'going over the top' from trenches like these certainly made me think. 

The photo below shows one of the 'dug-outs', which were shelters for the men in the trenches. As you can see this one is full of water. The water table in this area is very high, one of the reasons many of the trenches were so muddy during the First World War.

Below is the Memorial to the Welsh Soldiers who lost their lives in this area. The coach stopped very briefly here to allow the photographers among us to pop out very quickly and get some photos :)

A lovely memorial to the many Welsh men and women who lost their lives during World War l.

It was quite difficult to photo the detail of the magnificent Welsh Dragon, with the sun shining behind it, so I deliberately under exposed the shot below to show the detail.

The Welsh Memorial is situated in Langemark and was unveiled on 16th August 2014.

Still in the Langemark area is this monument next to the German Cemetery.

Langemark Cemetery

After the end of the First World War the Germans were given a small piece of land by the Belgians to be used as a cemetery for the German dead. The Belgians insisted that the grave stones were not upright, but flat on the ground, and the whole site was surrounded by high hedges or walls. Oak trees were planted as this is the national tree of Germany. Various alterations have been made to the site over the years, including the addition of the Basalt crosses shown in the photo above, which were erected in the 1950's. 

There are almost 45,000 men buried here, with varying numbers of men buried in each grave, their names inscribed on the square stones as shown in the photo above, there are 16 names shown on this particular stone. Thousands of unidentified men are also here, buried in a mass grave known as the 'Comrades Grave'.

Hitler is known to have visited this site during the Second World War, our guide showed us a photo of him, standing very close to where we were.

This site is cared for by Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraber Fursorge (the VDK) and, as you can see is very different to the sites which are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is actually a very peaceful and calm site, the oak trees are now nearly 100 years old, their presence gives the whole site a very different and distinctive atmosphere. 

The St. Julien Memorial which is dedicated to Canadian Soldiers, 2000 of whom lost their lives here as the result of the Germans using Chlorine Gas for the first time.  

Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world, with nearly 12,000 men buried or commemorated here. We arrived at dusk, which bathed the whole site in an incredible light. I don't know that you can call a cemetery beautiful, but if you could this would be the one.

The super moon rising over the cemetery.

Our last visit of the day was to the Menin Gate in Ypres. Ypres is a lovely little town, and the Menin Gate is on the site of one of the original gates into the town. 

Our guide told us to get into the gate by 7pm, the ceremony was due to start at 8pm. We found a much needed bar/restaurant and did not get back to the gate until about 7.20pm, to find there were thousands of people inside, and outside the gate, so we did not actually get to see the ceremony. We were standing right beside the gate, and saw the bands march in. We could also hear the whole ceremony, the music was wonderful, and very stirring. If we manage to go to Ypres again next year we will try our best to be under the gate early!

Part of one of the panels inside the Menin Gate.

And finally, the reason why we were there, to honour the thousands upon thousands who gave their lives so that we could live in peace. I thank them all for the ultimate sacrifice they made.


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Up The Tower, St. Peter's Church, Sandwich

This is the last blog in the series about the beautiful town of Sandwich, Kent. The tower of St. Peter's Church was opened to the public earlier this year. I have been trying to get up there for years, so I was really pleased when a beautiful staircase was built to let everyone see the views from up there :) My daughter and I picked a lovely day to climb the tower, the views from up there are just breath taking :D

On the way up the tower.....

.....past the clock workings....

....and the bells....

....nearly there, looking right up into the very top of the cupola :D

What a view :) Looking over the Guildhall and beyond.

Looking down on Market Street, the Library where I work is the flat roofed building in the centre of the photo. I had never seen the library from this view before :)

Looking towards Thanet.

Thanet direction again.

The White Mill on the Ash Road.

King Street, looking roughly in the direction of Deal.

St. Mary's Church.

St. Clement's Church in the background of this photo.

And a zoomed in view of St. Clement's Church.

Looking at the Bell Hotel, which is next to the Quay.

It has been great fun doing this series, I hope you have enjoyed seeing some views of this gorgeous little town :) I still have hundreds more photos of the town, but I hope that my selection has made some of you want to visit 'The Most Complete Medieval Town in England' :D

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Sandwich Churches, St Peter's

St Peter's Church, like St Mary's is a redundant church situated in the heart of the town. It is a Grade 1 listed building, and is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

Looking at the church from the South, the bricked up arches show where the south aisle used to be. Mary Bax is buried here somewhere. 

The Church was built in the late 13th Century, and is used for many public events, including the annual Christmas Tree Festival.

An old photo taken inside the church, the flags have been changed now.

Sun shining of the ancient walls. 

The Church is situated in Market Street, almost opposite the Library where I work, so is very handy for me to attend any events held there. 

The lovely interior of the church.

The original tower of the church collapsed in 1661, destroying the south aisle, which was never re-built. The site of the south aisle has been for many years a beautiful 'secret garden', used by those who know it is there, me included, to eat their lunch in the summer. George, the local gardener and others, have kept this garden in tip top condition, making it a wonderfully peaceful place to enjoy.

The 'secret garden' in the south aisle.

The tower was re-built by 'The Strangers', Flemish refugee weavers, who first settled in Sandwich in 1565. Examples of Flemish Architecture can be seen through the town.

The re-built tower .

In 1973, the remains of a black or plague rat was found by workmen doing repairs to the church. The rat is believed to have been there since the tower collapse of 1661, when cases of plague were still being found in East Kent. The remains of 'Roland' the rat can still be seen in the Guildhall Museum.

The lovely old Fire Engine, which used to live in the church. This was moved to the transport museum in Whitfield a couple of years ago. You don't expect to find a fire engine in a church, but I miss seeing it there.

This memorial lived in the Churchyard for a very long time, which explains its rather battered appearance, however the carving on the arm of the chain mail is still in remarkable condition.

A very old wall painting.

The tiny, but gorgeous crypt. I was lucky enough to see this on a Heritage Weekend, back in 2011. I don't think this is now on view to the public.

The church tower silhouetted against a morning sky.

The next, and last blog in this series about the lovely town of Sandwich will show the town from the top of St. Peter's Church tower :)

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sandwich, St. Bartholomew's Chapel

St. Bartholomew's Chapel (known for many years as St. Bart's) is at the centre of what was St Bartholomew's Hospital (Almhouses) in Sandwich. St Bartholomew's Hospital was established in the 11th Century as a hostel for travellers and Pilgrims making their way to Canterbury. There were two other Hospitals in the town, St. Thomas' Hospital originally dating from 1392, but re-built in a new location in 1864 and St. John's Hospital, which was founded in 1287, but was replaced by a row of cottages in 1805. St. Bartholomew's Chapel was built in 1217, which means it will be celebrating its 800th anniversary next year.

The beautiful main door.

Looking towards the main altar, showing the ornate Rood Screen.

The Chapel is now surrounded by 16 Alms Houses, occupied by the elderly of Sandwich. A lovely tradition takes place every year in August when there is a 'bun run' where the children of Sandwich run round the Chapel, to celebrate St. Bartholomew's day. Each child is presented with a bun on completing the circuit, and the adults are presented with a specially baked biscuit with the date 1190 on it.

Looking through to the oldest part of the Church.

The Chapel is just beautiful, and is in regular use for services. On entering the building the sense of peace is very evident.

One of the beautiful stained glass windows.

I believe this is a memorial to the founder of the Chapel.

The gorgeous Lectern, with its feet depicting lions :)