2 months ago



32 EVERGREEN Autumn Pilgrimage to the Western Front Each year, a group of chaps from the villages of Leybourne and the Mallings in Kent enjoy a day trip by coach and ferry, visiting either northern France or Belgium. In their comfortable coach, the party (and I am one of those day-trippers) eagerly look forward to some sightseeing, wine tasting, a good lunch and certainly those excellent Belgian beers. There is a good spirit of camaraderie on this informal annual gathering, but the Leybourne and Malling lads have a serious purpose, too. During the course of the day they visit a place of interest, usually connected with the two world wars. A recent destination was the peaceful landscape of Passchendaele and Ypres. Peaceful, that is, to our generation, but a blasted nightmare of death and mud for the men who

2017 EVERGREEN 33 visited these places, long ago in the Great War. Our coach took us first to Poperinge, where we visited the fine town hall and admired the heroic Belgian war memorial, complete with Flemish flag fluttering in the autumn breeze. Yet the town hall had a dark secret, for inside, in a little open-air square, stands a post — quite literally, a last post. Here they shot deserters and cowards, but not before those cowering souls had spent the night, or day, in a tiny cell. Our party, and the few other visitors who were there that day became silent and thoughtful. At that moment, I wondered how I might have behaved when faced with the fear of the grey sky over the trenches; Thousands of graves at Tyne Cot.

This England
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