Friday, 2 December 2011

Menin Gate just before the Last Post
Really enjoyed a day trip to Ypres (leper) in Belgium the other day with my good friend Mark. The whole area is somewhat hallowed ground with nearly 60,000 British and Commonwealth names  inscribed on the imposing Menin gate. And theses are 'only' those who died and have no known resting place. There are literally thousands more commemorated in cemeteries large and small all dotted around Ypres. Every night at 8pm the traffic is stopped  and the buglers play the Last Post. Since 1928 it has been played every night (apart from during the Second World War when the Germans stopped it). I quite expected that there would be a dozen or so the night we were there, but we counted about 300 and apparently there's often up to 1000 people!


Mark at Tyne Cot pill box
Just outside Ypres is Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest and most visited war cemetery in the world. We visited it just before dusk when it was bitterly cold and which somehow contributed to the ambience of being at the place where such sacrifice took place and where it is commemorated.  There are about 12,000 graves here and another 24,000 names of those with no known grave. There are three German pill boxes still within the cemetery and they are a poignant reminder of conspicuous bravery. A number of VCs were awarded in capturing similar such defences.

At Noel Chavasse' headstone 
For me paying a repeat visit to the headstone of Capt Noel Chavesse was the most poignant. He was the only man to be awarded two VCs during the First World War. He was a doctor originally from Liverpool and he was also a committed Christian believer. His father who was the Bishop of Liverpool wrote with heavy heart to Noel's brother Bernard telling him of Noel's death. They are brave and faithful words.

You will have heard by this time that our dearest Noel has been called away.... Our hearts are almost broken, for oh! how we loved him. Your dearest mother is pathetic in her grief, so brave and calm notwithstanding. But again and again, we keep praising and thanking God for having given us such a son. We know he is with Christ, and that one day - perhaps soon -we shall see him again. What should we do in such sorrow as this, if we could not rest on the character of God, on his love, and wisdom and righteousness....


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