After breakfast, we got out the little motorbike and shot off a few kilometres to Dogengang and the Trench of Death. Entrance fee €4 pp (card only). Two floors of photo’s, videos and artefacts of life in the trenches. The second floor provides a good viewing platform of the surrounding area before you step out and walk through the well preserved trenches. It is here, between 1915-18, the Belgian army protected their oil tanks and blocked German troops from advancing across the flooded IJzer. These battles often ended in bloodbaths and every day lives were lost resulting in the nickname, trench of death.
Back at base and great to see Mac n Tosh were still fast asleep and chilled. Its always a worry when you leave two young dogs in a new place for the first time. One because you don’t want them to stress and two, so they don’t destroy anything.
In the afternoon, we hopped back on the motorbike and set off to do the circular driving tour of WW1 sites. Everything is within a few kilometres, so ideal for the bike rather than touring with the motorhome. We stopped and filled up with petrol. €4.45, so that should last a few weeks!
Not long and we arrived at Langemark. We walked along the tree lined path to the pink sandstone gate. Inside, a haunting German military cemetery, full of flat tombstones for 44,304 soldiers. In the middle, well tendered lawns with row upon row of single headstones with the occasional dark stone cross. To the right, a mass communal grave representing more than 24,000 unknown soldiers. To the left, a garden of remembrance with several huge plaques displaying the names of more than 12,000 soldiers now resting in peace.
The Langemark was the scene of the very first chemical war attack using chlorine gas. On 22 April 1915, gas was released from 6,000 gas bottles over 6 kilometres killing everyone and everything in its path.
On the way to St Juliaan we briefly stopped at Guynemer Monument. A sculpture of a stork at Poelkapelle celebrating the pioneer of military aviation George Guynemer, who was lost, presumed dead, near her in 1917. Just down the road from here we spotted some rather shy roe deer and endless field of blue bells. The Canadian Monument, at St Juliaan is often referred to as the brooding soldier. A 10 meter high white granite column topped by a torso of a soldier who is looking in the direction of the cloud of chlorine gas.
We carried on driving through single track fields passing a number of smaller sized monuments before arriving at Tyne Cot. The largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world containing nearly 12,000 graves. The huge marble arc wall bears the names of 35,000 missing soldiers and stands at the top of the cemetery. From here, you can see the magnitude and sheer size of the cemetery with rows of headstones, beautifully maintained with tiny beds of wild flowers in between lawned gardens. In the middle, the remains of two German bunkers. The Canadian medic John McCrae wrote a poem “In Flanders Fields”, which established the poppy as the symbol of the fallen soldier Needless to say, the cemetery was covered in poppies with heart felt messages from loved ones all around the world.
We returned to Vin to find Mac n Tosh snug on the front seats. The sun was streaming through the side window and they were taking full advantage of the rays! However, as soon as we opened the door they came bounding over to greet us. Mac doing his signature sneeze and wiggle, whilst Tosh stoops low and then lunges full pelt in to your face. After a quick hello we set off on a big walk to chase some sticks and water some weeds, whilst Craig stayed in Vin and prepared a wonderful Sunday roast.
Tonights sleep spot, same as last night. IJzertoren free car park.
GPS coordinates N.051.030647 E.002.853741.
Weather high 19 and low 4, sunny but cold winds.