by Roland Binet (De Panne, Belgium)
A few weeks ago my wife and I visited a number of British Commonwealth military cemeteries from World War I in Belgium’s Ypres area, which is in western Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region in the north of Belgium. Starting in October 1914, Ypres had been attacked by considerable German forces but held its ground and remained part of the Allies’ front line until November 1917 when the line was joined by Anzac and Canadian soldiers, going on to reach Passendale, thus breaching the German army’s hold on the Ypres Salient in the west of Belgium.
I always feel a deep admiration for all those young men, the young privates as well as their officers who were sometimes much older. I come to see there graves in these Commonwealth military cemeteries. They were young men who came from New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland. They also came from India and Nepal and fought here in Belgium as volunteers, career soldiers or conscripted troops, to defend “brave little Belgium.” In Western Flanders, there are hundreds of such cemeteries where courageous men were laid to rest in what has been poetically termed “Flanders’ Fields,” a place that is forever British, with places of worship and by way of a common memory.