From just west of the town of Menen, some ten miles south east of Ypres (Ieper), the River Leie (better known to those with an interest in the First World War by its French name, the River Lys) forms the border between France and Belgium for approximately fifteen miles. The towns we shall visit along this stretch of the river were under German occupation for much of the First World War, as well as seeing heavy fighting towards the end of May 1940, as the B.E.F. attempted to prevent the Germans crossing the river during the retreat to Dunkirk.
Picture the scene. It’s November, it’s late at night, and it’s cold. Very cold. And me and the missus are standing in a darkened, deserted square in Comines (the French bit, south of the river) peering at the occasional passing car wondering why Baldrick isn’t driving it. However, every cloud, and all that. In front of the bell tower of the Church of St. Chrysole, to the east of the square, stands Comines War Memorial, and as I’ve got the camera with me, why waste the opportunity?
This small memorial (above & below) to the fallen at Verdun was unveiled in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the battle.
Memorial plaque to French soldiers killed in Algeria, Morocco & Tunisia.
Rather magnificent, don’t you think?
While we’re in Comines, this newspaper report of the early months of the German occupation might just be of interest. The gothic church mentioned is St. Chrysole, totally destroyed during the course of the war and rebuilt in the 1920s; the Mairie, or Town Hall, is on the opposite side of the square.
And yes, Balders did turn up in the end, and later we all drank beer.
Our journey along the River Lys continues with Part Two here.