Diary entry by Nooria Ahmadi and Anastasia Maher.
This morning was our first morning in Ypres Belgium. As the coach drove, we saw landscapes of trees and agriculture, which were once battlefields.
We learnt that there were five battles of Ypres. Today we focused on the third battle, the Passchendaele, initiated on 31 July 1917. The soldiers fought during autumn when the weather was almost similar to today’s weather. This allowed us to better imagine the soldiers experience and connect with them even more.
We then visited the New Buttes British Cemetery, and discovered 50% of men who died in war and were buried, had their bodies moved to different cemeteries. We also learnt that soldiers were buried in a row and do not have individual graves due to lack of space. While we were there, we held a commemoration service to honour the sacrifice these soldiers had made.
Next, we travelled and visited the Passchendaele Museum, located in Zonnebeke. By walking underground, visiting the beds of soldiers, the kitchen and walking on the trenches, we were able to step in the soldiers’ shoes. 100 days of fighting against the mud, 100 days of danger and 100 days of death. We were able to imagine the lives of the soldiers who strived to protect each other. The trip reminded us of our safety while also imagining what life was like for those who lived under the grounds, holding onto hope for survival.
During lunch we met Johan. Johan introduced us to his collections and stories. In particular the story of the Brother in Arms and how he is still keeping the memory of what Australians did. He even had a Trooper Jones equivalent! After lunch, we walked in the Polygon Woods with a soldier identity to further form a connection between us as a younger generation and the young soldiers of World War I. Whilst we were deciphering clues through the woods, we were able to really understand the conditions experienced on the Western Front by the freezing weather.
Prize recipients with Paul from RSL Queensland at an old bunker from World War I.
Prize recipients with Paul from RSL Queensland at De Dreve, Zonnebeke.
Prize recipients with Paul from RSL Queensland at the Brothers in Arms Memorial.
Tom F and Anastasia in the trenches at Passchendaele Museum.
Prize recipients delivering a commemoration at New Buttes British Cemetery.
Gravestones at New Buttes British Cemetery.