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GUEST COLUMN, poignant visit to war graves, by Nathan Morley

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Having recently explored the World War One battlefields and the many subsequent cemeteries, the devastating effect became abundantly clear to me - particular because I had previously only read about the events.

Reading the numbers of fatalities and the destruction simply doesn’t have the same effect as going to the scenes themselves. The sheer volume hit home. The way the cemeteries and their surrounding grounds are maintained is wonderful. In fact, the way they are preserved is exceptional.

I imagined - especially with the graves being ostracised from Britain - them to be in a much worst condition than I actually discovered.

After all, it was a long time ago. When we visited, works were ongoing around the battlefield and graveyards ahead of the centenary anniversary this summer.

It is a time to reflect once again on the devastation.

Furthermore, the cemeteries also appeared to be very well visited, testament to the fact that we should never forget. Each cemetery has its own register of every single person’s grave and a reference to its position in the cemetery.

As well as that, there are even headstones for those that perished in a state that made them unidentifiable and those who’s bodes were never found - engraved with the words Known Unto God.

Those that died together have their graves slightly touching.

In the now sleepy Belgian city of Ypres, a place nicknamed ‘Wipers’ by the British troops all those years ago, the Last Post is played every night at 8pm, when the roads are closed and many turn out to pay their respects.

Menin Gate, the venue where it is held, has the names of the 54,896 whose graves are not known. I think it is quite remarkable how, each and every day, there are tributes.

During my visit the area was absolutely packed and I could therefore barely see the service unfold. It was an experience that will live with me for a while to come.

 

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