Whitwick Royal British Legion group make emotive remembrance trip to Ypres

By Guest author

11th May 2024 | Local News

The group embarked on the pilgrimage to Belgium last month. All photos: Julie Smith
The group embarked on the pilgrimage to Belgium last month. All photos: Julie Smith

Members of Whitwick Royal British Legion embarked on a pilgrimage to Ypres in Belgium last month.

Over the four days, the 41-strong group visited sites such as the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to The Missing, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world. 

At Tyne Cot, the poppy wreath was laid by Diane Mountford, Jacque Chapman and Andrea Smith, all of whose grandfathers had fought in the area during World War One, and survived. 

The branch also visited and laid wreaths at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery and Hooge Crater Cemetery, while also visiting the museums there. 

As a short excursion, the members also visited the museum at Dunkirk, site of Operation Dynamo, where 338,000 allied troops were rescued by a fleet of small boats from Britain. 

The group also took the opportunity to lay a wreath of remembrance at the Dunkirk Cemetery, this was laid by Kev Blackery (RAF). 

The highlight of the trip came on the second evening, when the Branch attended and laid a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. 

Paul Mullen proudly bore the Branch Standard, and the wreath laying party, made up of three veterans, were John Downie (The King's Own Scottish Borderers), Bill Parker (Royal Marines) and Martyn 'Tych' Broughton (Royal Signals). 

The majority of the rest of the branch stood on parade throughout the moving ceremony. 

Ypres was the scene of five different battles throughout World War One and the whole area was flattened. 

As the town was rebuilt, the Menin Gate was erected as a lasting memorial to all the Commonwealth troops who were killed and never found to be given a decent burial. 

The panels on the gate hold the names of 54,000 fallen men. 

Organiser Julie Smith said: "Ypres is a place everyone should visit at least once, it brings home the enormity of the sacrifice made by so many. 

"The town itself is so beautiful and poignant and it was a privilege to take people there who had never been before. 

"The Last Post service has been taking place every evening since 1927, with the exception of the years of World War Two, and is still emotive, whether it's your first time or you've been many times."

The trip concluded with a group tour of The In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, which houses many artefacts recovered from the area and has interactive experiences to explain the timeline of World War One. 

Julie added: "All in all, the trip was a huge success and we fulfilled our acts of remembrance as well as having a wonderful time."

     

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