In the weekend of last April 8 and 9 a group of 29 RCL-comrades and partners or friends made a Battlefield Tour in the surroundings of Ypres and attended the commemoration ceremony of 100 years Battle of Vimy Ridge
April 8 Battlefield Tour and “Last Post” at the Menin Gate, Ypres
By a travel coach Van der Valk Tours the group left from 3 locations in the Netherlands to Ypres in Belgium. A short break was made so everyone could gaze at the impressive inner city of Ypres, before the start of the Battlefield Tour along the route which the Canadians followed in the Great War.
On several places a stop was made like at Essex Farm, the remembrance site of John McCrae, the Canadian memorial at St. Julien, the CWGC cemetery at Tyne Cot, the largest war cemetery of the Common Wealth in the world an of course the Passchendaele Museum. The weather was beautiful and the party was highly interested informed by our Tour Guide Berry Swarthoff, who worked out an extensive Tour book and a very nutritious lunch packet. If you like you can read the Tour book by following this link.
The Tour ended at the Tavern “De Dreve” in Polygon Wood of Johan van de Walle. He prepared a “Tommy Tucker” buffet, a dish of potato, cabbage, onion, sausage and pork belly, as it has been eaten in the Great War by the troops. The poured Belgian Beer originated fortunately not from that period.
Johan narrated about the circumstances during the war, but above all about his great passion digging’ the trenches. He told very detailed about the bodies of two brothers in arms he found, who were mummified and in good shape. Despite the stories there was just little time, because members of the RCL005 Colour Party needed to participate in the “Last Post” ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres at 08:00PM.
The President of RCL Branch 005 together with the Canadian Ambassador and her spouse laid a wreath at the gate. Again it was an impressive ceremony together with this time the many Canadians, who also planned to attend the ceremony in Vimy the next day. This Colour Party also became the maiden performance of comrade Gerda Meijerink, who was able to follow the group very properly this first time.
After the ceremony the group left to the hotel in Lille, France. Before going to sleep to start the next big day of Vimy fresh there were some drinks and chats to talk about the past day.
April 9 Commemoration ceremony 100 years Battle of Vimy Ridge
Early in the morning after a good served breakfast (knowing the French standards) and provided with a lunch packet to “survive” the day coming the bus left for Vimy. It was just a short ride, but in Vimy there appeared to be a hive of activity of people going to the ceremony. There were expected to be registered about 25,000 people. The RCL Colour Party fort he occasion named Flagbearers had to gather in the Salle de Fête in the village, at the place also the special invitees should arrive. It supposed to mean our group had to split up in two, but after a bit of talking with the help of our “Frenchie” Wayne Healey the whole group was permitted to enter the reception hall and was allowed to travel on the designated shuttle busses. In the hall everyone was superbly provided with finger foods and drinks and was able to talk with the many guests about the event in Vimy.
It took some time before everyone arrived and every security checks were done, but in the end all people arrived safely at the ceremony venue at which many thousands of people gathered around in the bright sun enjoying the surroundings. The Colour Party of RCL005 + a comrade of our Zone, Dan Saulnier, were completed with several French flagbearers. Martin Reelick presented himself as Sgt at Arms very well and we all marched up accompanied by members of the medical aid troops of the Canadian Army next to the very special monument. The group for 2 ½ hours gave act of presence impressively.
Meanwhile the other members of the group had been appointed to seats in the VIP section of guests. They had a fabulous view to the stage and the venue. The ceremony became very imposing with the fly by of planes from the Great War but also modern ones. There was music and dance and many attention to the indigenous Canadian people, of whom also many died in the Great War.
Several speeches were given by guests. Among them Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry of the UK, the Governor-General of Canada David Johnston, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the French President Francois Hollande. The event was surrounded by pride, honour and dignity by the entire public. A very special day!
After the ceremony it took some time to transport the 25,000 people in the shuttle busses back to the “normal” world again, but the RCL-group had some luck and was able to leave for home fairly quickly. On the go in Belgium dinner was prepared, at which our President evaluated the weekend shortly and said thanks to everybody for their enthusiastic part in the last two days especially the organizing Taskforce Vimy 2017.
Pictures of these two amazing days will be paced on our website shortly under “photo albums”. Would you like to experience the ceremony at Vimy yourself? You are able to find it on Youtube:
(whole version of 4 hours) or (short version of 6 min).
Look at our photo album at Photo album 2017