Hello from Messines, Belgium.
This morning we left Harrow and headed to St. Pancras station to board the Eurostar train to Lille! We enjoyed taking in the beauty of the scenery of both the English and French countrysides on both ends of our Chunnel crossing. At Lille we met our fantastic driver Franky who will be with us for the remainder of the program.
Next stop Belgium! We began our visits of monuments and memorials at Essex Farm-the advanced dressing station where Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae composed In Flanders Fields. Emily gave a wonderful presentation about McCrae’s life and service and then led us in a choral reading of the famous poem.
We then headed to the Passchendaele memorial where Andrew spoke to us about the significance and losses of territory and men on the battlefields surrounding Ypres. To give more context behind the battles in the Ypres Salient we spent time at the In Flanders Fields museum-we saw incredible artefacts and watched powerful reenactments of primary texts told in four voices-English, French, German and Flemish.
We ended our night by taking part in a special wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate. Representing Canada, France and Britain respectively, Roseline, Charles and Sabrina reverently presented a floral wreath on our behalf. How special to be part of this ritual commemoration which has been happening nightly since the end of the First World War.
Tomorrow we embark on a tour of many important historic spaces with visits to nearby battlefields, cemeteries and memorials on the Ypres Salient. As we journey onward together, we continue to honour, reflect and remember them.
-Katy Whitfield and Hanna Smyth, BVP Coordinators