November 27, 2010.
It started with a book, more than forty years ago now. Two books, actually. World War 1914-1918 – A Pictured History, Volumes 1 & 2, edited by Sir John Hammerton. They belonged to the father of a good friend of mine and, when I asked, he was kind enough to lend them to me. I knew a little about the World Wars even then; I had been given my Grandpa’s 1914 Princess Mary Christmas box a few years earlier when he died, and have treasured it ever since, and I knew he had been wounded on the Somme. My own father fought in the Second World War, but this was the first time I had ever seen such photographs; page after page, soldiers from all over the world marching, eating, laughing, fighting, sleeping, dying, scenes that held my teenage attention late into the night, night after night. And the books themselves. They smelled old. They must have been published a long time ago (ok, twenty years after the War, I discovered, but they were still very old to me). They really did feel like some sort of link back to the time of the men whose pictures I was captivated by. My Grandpa had been one of them. I was fascinated. Actually I was fascinated and a bit naughty really, as I seem to remember keeping them far too long. But eventually they had to go back to their rightful owner, and I set about starting my own library. It’s somewhat larger now, and yes, of course you’ll find Sir John’s two volumes there. But these ones belong to me.
I have just returned from my fifth** three-day trip to Flanders in the last six years, visiting and photographing the cemeteries in the Ieper (Ypres) area (my Belgian chauffeur – more about him later, I expect – insists, quite rightly really, on Ieper). The missing year was a meeting of friends with a love of Frank Zappa in common, and that is an entirely different type of weekend. Trust me. Anyway, I do not pretend to be a brilliant photographer; I take photos for my benefit, first and foremost, and as long as I am happy then I have achieved what I intended. Nonetheless, if you feel like spending some time looking at them then be my guest. I hope you like them. I hope they make you think. And remember. Having said all that it’s going to take me months to upload all the photographs that I intend to, so you’ll just have to bear with me. Oh, and don’t expect a comprehensive A-Z of British cemeteries in Belgian Flanders, mainly because I haven’t visited them all yet. One day*. Anyway, there are a couple of other websites that do that job brilliantly. What will be different here is that I will try to show you round the cemeteries that I have visited as best I can. Suffice to say, each cemetery will not be represented by just one photograph. Which might sound, indeed be, incredibly boring, but I’ll enjoy it anyway, and it’s my site. I also ought to mention that this isn’t really a blog, so expect older posts to be updated as and when I feel it’s necessary.
By the way, the photo I have used at the top of the page is of Lone Tree Cemetery, looking west towards the British rear areas from what was No Man’s Land before the Battle of Messines in June 1917.
*Update November 2014: Getting there!
**Update 2016: Eleven, I think, now.