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Wednesday 19 April 2017 " Ypres Salient

Tour itinerary

The Australian battlefields in the Ypres Salient, where the Anzacs made history in 1917, were visited today. The tour group heard many stories of battles won and lost and of the Anzacs who fought in them, as they visited places such as the 5th Australian Division Memorial at Polygon Wood, the battlefield at Broodseinde Ridge, the cratered landscape of Hill 60 and the German Cemetery at Langemarck, where they learnt about men on the other side of the line.

Photos

Photos of the students' tour of Ypres Salient battlefields have been added to the gallery.

Student views

Ypres Salient

Today began with a quick walk to Menin Gate Memorial where a couple of us completed our individual eulogies. This was a moving experience for all, but especially for Marissa as she had found her relative's name on the memorial wall. The same level of excitement was also felt by Brooklyn, Bella and Hannah who also managed to find their fallen soldiers despite the thousands of names listed on the walls of the Menin Gate.

We then made our way to the Cloth Hall of Ypres. This interactive museum was quite confronting as it mainly focused on the consequences of the war. After a quick stop at the gift shop, we made our way back to the hotel, where we began our tour of the battlefields of Ypres for the day.

Our first stop was at Hill 60, where Australian tunnellers dug and exploded one of the 19 bombs set, with devastating consequences for the German forces. While walking around this crater, Pete was showing what is known to be block houses. Block houses were built during World War One to protect machine gunners during bombings then allowing them to rise up out of them killing many of the opposition.

While driving to Sean's first commemoration at Birr Crossroads Cemetery, Pete told us the story of Hellfire Corner. This was an emotional experience for Sean and the group, as the soldier Sean was commemorating was his grandfather, who died the year he was born. Further on in the day, we stopped at a little restaurant near the battlefields surrounding Ypres for lunch. The owner of the shop, Yohan, was a renowned excavator of tunnels from the First World War, and was responsible for identifying multiple soldiers whom had previously been an "Australian Soldier of the Great War" due to them not being identified.

We then departed on a brief but very intriguing walk to Polygon Wood where individual commemorations were held. These were again very meaningful to the group as we were standing amongst many soldiers who gave their lives for us as well as being able to see the head stone of some of the soldiers that were commemorated. Once these were completed, Pete gave us an overview of the 5th Division Memorial, which was also standing in the Polygon Wood Cemetery.

After a quick view of another nearby cemetery which shares the Cross of Rememberance (Sword) with Polygon Wood Cemetery, we headed back to the Menin Gate where we held our group commemoration service. Upon completion we briskly walked to a nearby restaurant where we were having dinner before returning to the Menin Gate for the night service. While some of our participants and many others were laying wreaths, a group of servicemen and women from New Zealand sang in their native tongue.

For some, today was the best day of the trip so far as they really appreciated the commemorations that took place and being able to see the grave sites that so many men were buried in.

By Chase Pontifex and Nicholas Margetts

Student and chaperone commemorations

Each member of the tour group researched three service personnel. This information has been captured in a State Library of Queensland Historypin.

Commemorations were held today for:

Birr Crossroads Cemetery

John Auguste Emile Harris

Gunner Edward Harold Waters
(Commemorated by Sean Maher)

Born in Brisbane in 1895, this 19 year old woodworker enlisted in 1914 and returned home in 1918. He landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on either 25th or 26th April 1914 and also served in the Somme. Edward was Sean's grandfather.

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This page was last reviewed on 20 Apr 2017

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