Tuesday, 1 August 2017

BE17 - Day 2

We were up early for breakfast. The paperwork said that the parking along Beselarestraat from near Beselare towards Zonnebeke was open until 10am.

The first problem was leaving the A19 as instructed that the junction wasn't policed on this section and we took nearly 15 mins to get the left rurn onto the N303 road into solid traffic through the town. Way before the start of the parking we were directed into a field and told to walk up the road.

I had put a way marker into the TomTom for the road junction at the bottom of the parking. It was still some 600m to go. We were stopped by police and could see buses up ahead and a queue of people. By the time our column got up to about 200m  long the queue at what was Bus Stop F has disappeared. We were then told buses would come.

With the traffic we were far too late to have a look around the museum site and went through accreditation and straight onto buses to Tyne Cot.

We eventually arrived there about 11 o'clock. We were supposed to be seated well before 1145 when the VIPs would arrive.

Instead around 1145 the bands arrived. RAF, Guards and the Royal Marines.

We had really good seats with a clear view of the memorial cross and the microphone where the readings would be from.

Then the honour guard arrived and formed up next to us. Then to our dismay the choir came and stood in front of us. To have taken photos through their ranks may have been "inappropriate" as they were teenaged girls, at least the ones in front of us.

Luckily after several short blasts of the National Anthems the Guard marched off. And the choir moved into their vacated space. So as the VVIP's arrived we had a decent view. 

Although we were told to remain seated unless instructed. The people in front nearer the Royals stood up. We could see eff all.

I have a few photos of the King and Queen of Belgium, Prince Charles and Prince William and Katherine.

Prince Charles opened the ceremony with a reading. He was followed by Theresa May, our Prime Minister. During the session there were actors and serving soldiers from UK, Commonwealth and Belgium that read out letters, poetry and diary entries from men that died during the 103 days of the Battle.  Third Ypres also known as Passchendaele.

I was interested in going as many years ago my great grandfather Joseph Shaw, once or twice only, mentioned the mud and rats when there with the Lancashire Fusiliers. Luckily he came home and lived until the mid-1960's.

Following  the readings,  Queen Mathilde and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, laid wreaths at the graves of unknown soldiers.

There was a German soldier there . He read out a letter home from one of their men who was also killed. His wreath was laid by Queen Mathilde.

After this,  the party sort of broke up. The VVIP's left by the entrance to our rear left. Too many people spoiled the photo op.

Then began the long long wait for buses. We decided to try the infirm access after about an hour.  Just as people started to flock to that same exit point.  It worked and after a few minutes waiting we were on a bus back to Zonnebeke.

Once there we were directed to our picnic lunch.

There were displays set up for visitors and we looked at a few before joining the bus queue. The use of dogs to work as a team to tow equipment was highlighted. With two large dogs towing a machine gun on its small limber. 

It had been sunny all day and without a hat I knew that I would become lobster man. I am. We found shade eventually. The queue for the buses back  to the parking was generally good natured humour.

Traffic was heavy as the bus went to the parking and went from A to F. At F our driver chucked us off and we had to walk the full 600 plus metres to the cars. No consolation was that the buses behind came right there!!

The hit or miss system meant that the 5 kms of solid traffic from the morning didn't happen. It was all pretty plain sailing past Ypres and Poperinge and back into France and to the Tunnel. 

The A25 was free running northwards. It is in far better condition than it used to be. Being a free motorway it has less spent on it than the toll roads that criss cross France.

We stopped in Auchun to fill the tank. Even with the shitty exchange rate diesel is still cheaper there than here. But nowadays not as much as it used to be.

At the tunnel the screen seemed to be offering us an earlier crossing at "no extra charge " but actually was the 2020 we were booked on! Nice to know they hadn't changed the fare when we were away and after we paid...
The delays at our immigration weren't as bad as in previous visits.

We were waved through and then on the screen saw that our crossing was timed to load at the same time it was due to leave.  Blame for this was laid at immigration's door.

By some fluke though we were loaded onto the train before the one booked. It was 13 minutes late leaving but we were 5 minutes earlier than booked. This in no way clears them for the last four or five occasions when we have been upto two hours late.

In the end a great trip and a great event and another display that Britain truly is great at pomp.

There was a casualty on the trip. On Sunday I bought some chocolates to take to work. There was a selection of white, milk and dark chocolate discs about 2.5 ins in diameter with nuts and candied fruit. Sadly they were in a bag in the back of the car. When we came back we had a molten mixture.

The Tyne Cot Memorial 

Irish Guards

Tyne Cot Cemetery 

Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge 

Prince Charles

Marine Buglers before Last Post

Dog team towing maching gun

Tyne Cot Memorial built on top of concrete German bunker

1917 Renault tank

Field dressing station and ambulance

Molten chocolates

Royal Irish Regiment Pipers and Buglers

Views of the Tyne Cot Cemetery

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