On our recent visit to the battlefield sites of World War 1, we started our trip at Tyne Cot cemetery in Belgium which is one of four memorials to those men who were known to have died but were never found after the battles of the Ypres Salient. The First Battle of Ypres between October and November 1914, saw a small British Expeditionary Force capture Ypres, pushing the German forces back onto the Passchendaele Ridge over winter. The Second Battle of Ypres commenced in April 1915; the Germans used the first examples of modern chemical warfare by shelling the Allies with poison gas. One can only imagine the horror and ghastliness of it… and in the knowledge that a hundred years later, forces in the Middle east are still using this vile weapon is just sickening. The Third Battle of Ypres was in 1917; it started in June and dragged on through dreadful weather until at last the Allies captured of Passchendaele.
The memorial at Tyne Cot is carved with the names of almost 35,000 officers and men who have no known graves and is in the cemetery, which was created round a German blockhouse or pill-box; when it had been captured it was used as an advanced dressing station, and 343 of those poor men who had died there were buried. After the Armistice other remains were brought there from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck as well as some other small burial grounds. It is now the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world in terms of burials,11,956 Commonwealth servicemen of World War 1 are buried or commemorated here, tragically 8,369 of these men are unidentified. .
King George V visited the cemetery four years after the Armistice and he made the suggestion that the Cross of Sacrifice should be placed on top the original pill-box, the largest of the four in the cemetery.
I knew I would be moved by the visit, I didn’t realise quite how much; tears sprang into my eyes as i read the names of those who had been known, and for all those poor, poor young men ‘known only to God’.