The War Memorials in France and Belgium

The Menin Gate in the town of Ypres has the names of 54,000 soldiers who died in the battle but their remains have not been found. Every day, the Last Post signals this tragic event while flower petals are thrown down through holes in the monument.

After Portugal, it was on to the port cities of Cherbourg in France and Zeebrugge in Belgium to see and try to experience what the soldiers in both World War I and World War II faced and how they died in those epic battles.

In France we visited the beaches of Normandy.  This year marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the invasions by the allied troops on Utah Beach, Omaha Beach and Juno Beach during the Second World War.  As part of the planning, the Americans had Utah and Omaha as their invasion point and the Canadians were assigned to Juno.  Sword and Gold beaches were assigned to the United Kingdom.  D-Day was June 6, 1944 and will never be forgotten!  We came away in awe both from the number of casualties and the complexity those troops faced in pushing back the Germans. As well as walking those beaches, we had the privilege of visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial located immediately behind Omaha Beach.

The next day we were in the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium where a bus transported us to the town of Ypres (pronounced e-per), Flanders Fields and the Commonwealth Cemetery.  Those stops took us to see the battlefieds of World War I around Ypres and gave us the opportunity to see and hear of  the life-saving work of Dr. John McRae (from Guelph) and where he wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.  We were deeply moved and astounded at the number of casualties and the total futility of such conflicts. We took hundreds of pictures and they speak for themselves.  Both locations (Normandy Beaches and Ypres) are highly recommended to anyone interested in world history. To think that D-Day was 75 years ago and the First World War now more than 100 years in the past is a reminder of the phrase, “Lest We Forget”.

To get ashore massive floating docks were assembled to form a road from out in the ocean to the shore.

The remains of the portable roads out to sea can still be seen. Fifteen derelict ships were also sunk to form a breakwater.

The Normandy American Cemetery sits atop Omaha Beach.

Instead of a cross, Jewish soldiers have a Star of David on their grave.

The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery is located just outside of Ypres.

This is the Advanced Dressing Station where wounded soldiers were triaged by Dr. John McRae and where he wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields”.

The plaque in honour of Dr. John McRae is located in the Essex Farm Cemetery next to the Advanced Dressing Station and within site of Ypres.

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