Our product manager Ann & Operations assistant Michelle travelled to Ypres in Belgium with 150 tour operators to experience:- Flanders Battlefield Tours
Here is what they learnt:
Visit to In Flanders Fields museum
Located in the historic Cloth Hall, this modern, interactive museum was completely renewed in 2012 and is named after the poem by John McCrae, written just a few kilometres from the town centre. The permanent exhibition tells the story of the invasion of Belgium in 1914 and of how the troop movement of the first months gradually stagnated into 4 years of trench warfare. It also features the Armistice and the ways in which the war has been commemorated over the past 100 years.
Reception at the Cloth Hall
Having toured the museum, we were guests at a reception within the medieval "Lakenhallen". In the Middle Ages, this building was the centre of the cloth trade in the thriving town of Ypres. Its magnificence was literally shattered during the early months of the First World War. The building caught fire after being bombarded by shells and by 1918, just a jagged tooth of the imposing tower remained standing. Faithfully rebuilt during the post-War years, today it's hard to believe that this place was the victim of such destruction.
Walk from Cloth Hall to Menin Gate
We walked to Menin gate via the Market Square this gave us a chance to admire the results of the post-War reconstruction of Ypres. The buildings around the square were all constructed in the decades after 1918 and bear witness to the determination of the Flemish people - and of the "Ieperlingen" in particular - to reclaim their land and rebuild their homes.
Last Post ceremony & laying of wreaths
There has been a gateway into Ypres from the Menin Road since medieval times - but none as impressive as the one which now stands on that spot. Designed in 1921 and unveiled 6 years later, the Menin Gate is a memorial to more than 54,000 soldiers of Commonwealth countries who have no known grave. Each night of the year at 8pm, volunteer firemen from the local fire station play "The Last Post" to honour the missing and all those who died during the '14-'18 war.
Guided tour around Ypres WWI sites
The Ypres Salient was the scene of major battles throughout the 4 years of the war. The landscape today still bears witness to the conflict and is punctuated by more than 240 cemetaries and memorials which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Visit to the Lochnagar Mine Crater at La Boiselle
This is the largest man-made mine crater created during the First World War on the Western Front. The mine was laid by a tunnelling company of the British Royal Engineers and exploded on the morning of 1st July 1916, at the launch of the British offensive against the German lines - the Battle of the Somme.
The experience will stay with us for ever......lest we forget!