Close to home
Today we did an Ieper and surrounds day. Went to visit the Hill 62 museum which was an impressive collection of original artefacts and stuff they had personally dug out of their back yard. Their grounds had been left as trenches to give the tourists an idea of what trench life might have been like. No chance! Unless you make people sleep in the ditches, in the rain, with lice and rats and then continually shoot mortars at them, they will never be able to begin to imagine what war was like.
Afterwards we headed off to Polygon Wood where Smythe #4 won a bar to his Military Cross. Steve went for a long walk through the woods so Margaret and I had a cup of tea in Johan Vandewalle's Anzac Rest café. Johan helped excavate and identify the Zonnebeke Five – the five Australian soldiers that were discovered just a few years ago. Private John Hunter had died in his brother’s arms and Jim had carefully wrapped his body in a ground sheet and buried him. The family had futilely searched for years after the war to give him a proper grave.
Johan is trying to get permission and money together to erect a Brother’s in Arms memorial. He came to Australia to talk to the Aussie Govt without luck. He has since researched and listed over 650 sets of brothers who died on the same day during the Flanders and Somme battles.
The afternoon was spent mooching around Ieper, exploring the streets and churches. I went to the Last Post again and this time the crowd clapped at the end, which I found most disconcerting.