I am reminded as I await the publication of “Poppy Flowers at the Front” to be published by Brigand Press later this month that I had the pleasure of a tour of the World War I Battlefields to research several sites from my novel, after a grant from the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust 

I was based in Bruges. Our local guide took us to places we deemed important on our journey as well as some more well-known sites. It was an incredible, moving and informative day. I learnt so much and have a sense of Place for my novel, even though events occurred over a century ago, all the sites held the ghosts of the past and it is not a cliché to say I felt their presence and was often moved to tears. The photographs I have selected show sites we visited and are not in any particular order.

Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Grave of Hedd Wynn, Welsh poet and National Eisteddford Bard of 1917 buried as Ellis H. Evans at Artillery Wood Cemetery, near Boezinge. A hero of mine.

The Canadian memorial at Vancouver Corner in Saint-Juliaan near Langemark-Poelkapelle to the north of Ypres in Belgium. It’s an incredible scene, the lone sentry overlooking the graves of over 2000 men. Silently, with such dignity, now peacefully.

 

Passchendale Museum.

To imagine that 41276kg of explosives had detonated here in Spanbroekmolen Crater, otherwise known as the Pool of Peace .

The silence now is bewitching and the scene has a calm beauty about it. How many men tunnelled their way underneath the German lines? How many men died when the explosion ripped through the earth. It beggars belief.

And what do we have now? A sanctuary for flora and wildlife, a meeting place for lovers. The scent of flowers and the nightmarish calls from beyond the grave. The grave beneath the water.

The new Welsh monument at Hagebos, Pilckem Ridge, Langemark, Belgium.

For a Welshman a “must visit” site. Someone left a photograph of Hedd Wynn..

Welsh Cemetery.

 

 

Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Too many graves, too many young lives lost and still we repeat the same mistakes. Wonderfully cared for and tended to by volunteers. A fitting memorial?

 

Flanders Field Museum, Ypres.

Impressive display of war. Exhibitions introducing young people to their history. A fantastic experience. Full of atmosphere and hope for the future.

Menin Gate, Ypres.

I ended my journey here, to think the whole town had been flattened by artillery then rebuilt using the old stone shows us that man’s spirit can’t be broken.

 

Flanders Field Museum, Ypres.

This was an amazing visit, made possible by the generous grant. Though I didn’t take any photographs of the landscape, it did leave an imprint upon me. The sight of land pock marked by shell explosions from over a hundred years ago is still very clear today. That armaments are still being brought to the surface by agriculture shows the volume of high explosives that landed on the ground. It is astounding that anyone could live through the bombardments they endured. I hope my story can capture the intensity of the fight and the tragedy of the occasion from a very human viewpoint.