Jullundur Project 2014
During the half term holiday, Mr Grimshaw, Zakki (6G) and Rayan (6F) have been extremely fortunate to be involved in a three day tour of France and Belgium, to commemorate the Indian army's 'Jullundur Brigade' with the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment. The Jullundur Brigade were manoeuvred to Neuve Chapelle in the winter of 1914, in northern France, and played a key role in the first Battle of Ypres during World War 1.
Whilst there, we were very privileged to experience significant sites, which pay tribute to the Great War, and have had the opportunity to be involved with military commemorations surrounding World War 1 at Neuve Chapelle and the Menin Gate.
Here are the sites that we visited:
Diksmuide Trenches 'Trench of Death' (Diksmuide, Belgium)
This monument to the First World War may well be the site that best evokes the horrors of this first great war. The reconstruction of the front-line trenches recreates the feeling of dread and confinement and inhuman living conditions at the front. The Trench of Death at Diksmuide was hard hit during the First World War. On the other side of the river Yser, German troops were positioned in a bunker just 20 meters from the trench. It was the Belgian defence line on the Yser and every square inch of ground was fought over bitterly.
Tyne Cot Cemetery (Zonnebeke, Ypres Salient Battlefields,Belgium)
Tyne Cot Cemetery is the resting place of 11,954 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces. This is the largest number of burials contained in any Commonwealth cemetery of either the First or Second World War. It is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world.
The dates of death of the soldiers buried at Tyne Cot cemetery cover a period of four years, from October 1914 to September 1918 inclusive.
Tyne Cot was a very 'moving' place and we were able to walk freely around the headstones, each one identical in their shape.
Many of the remains of soldiers were unidentifiable during their burials, these became known as 'Unknown Soldiers' of the Great War. Their headstones bear the inscription 'A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR, KNOWN UNTO GOD'.
In Flanders Fields Museum (Ypres, Belgium)
In Flanders Fields Museum is located in the famous Cloth Hall (called the Lakenhalle in Flemish) in the centre of Ypres (Ieper). In 1998 the original Ypres Salient Memorial Museum was refurbished and renamed In Flanders Fields Museum.
In Flanders Fields Museum is an award winning museum which has undergone a major refurbishment for the centenary of 1914-1918.
The re-opened In Flanders Fields museum features the latest technological museum applications, providing visitors with touch screens, video projections, soundscapes and an interactive Poppy Bracelet.
Inside the museum, we were able to look at artifacts from the First World War including; weapons, uniforms and other tools and instruments that the soldiers used on a day-to-day basis.
There were also many interactive displays within the museum and models to try to demonstrate the horrors of the battlefield.
Essex Farm Cemetery (Boezinge, Belgium)
There are 1,200 WW1 servicemen buried or commemorated in this cemetery. Of these burials 103 are not identified. There are special memorials commemorating 19 casualties who are known or believed to be buried among the unidentified burials.
The cemetery was used by several British divisions holding this sector from 1915 to August 1917. Men from these divisions are buried throughout the cemetery. Plot I contains the dead of the 49th (West Riding) Division from 1915. The dead of the 38th (Welsh) Division dated in the autumn of 1916 are buried in Plot III.
It was a lovely evening as we walked amongst the headstones at Essex Farm.
This is the grave of Valentine Joe Strudwick. He was one of the youngest casualties of the war, at only 15 years of age. His grave is located in Essex Farm and is popular with visitors wishing to pay their respects.
This is a photo of a dressing station that is located next to the cemetery. It is here that wounded soldiers would come to have their injuries assessed. This station wasn't far behind the front line and as a result of this, it was hit by enemy shelling.
In Flanders Fields - John McCrae
It is near Essex Farm Cemetery that John McCrae wrote his famous war poem 'In Flanders Fields'.
Whilst stationed at Essex Farm, in May 1915 he was moved to write the famous poem "In Flanders Fields". This was after one of his friends, Alexis Helmer, was killed and buried. Seeing the poppies blow around the graves led to the best known image of this poem. "In Flanders Fields" was published for the first time in Punch in December that year, and has since come to encapsulate the sacrifice of those who fought. Helmer's grave cannot be found in the Cemetery; it was lost later on in the War, and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate.
Talbot House (Poperinge, Belgium)
Thousands of British soldiers passed through Talbot House during the three years it was open from the end of 1915. It was a place where rank was left at the front door. There was always an urn of tea on the go. There were books and comfortable chairs. There was even a chapel furnished by the soldiers in the hop loft at the top of the house. In spite of the rumble of the guns in the distance, it was a quiet and unique place behind the British lines where men could spend time relaxing, writing letters and meeting with serving friends, brothers and fathers, in what must have felt like a British “home-from-home”.
During our visit we were given a tour of the house. Whilst walking around you could imagine the relief that the soldiers would have felt in the relative safety of the house and its gardens.
Menin Gate (Ypres, Belgium)
The Menin Gate is the most famous Commonwealth war memorial in Flanders and perhaps the world. Tens of thousands of soldiers passed through here on their way to the front, many of them never to return. Opened in 1927, the memorial bears the names of 54 896 soldiers who were reported missing in the Ypres Salient between the outbreak of war and 15 August 1917. The Menin Gate was designed in classical style by Sir Reginald Blomfield. Every evening at 8 pm, a deeply moving ceremony takes place under the vast arch of the Menin Gate: the traffic stops and buglers from the local fire brigade play 'The Last Post'. The ceremony was begun in 1928. Sometimes the ceremony is attended by just few spectators, on more formal occasions hundreds can be present. Irrespective of numbers, the Last Post remains a unique and moving experience.
Our approach to the Menin Gate from the centre of Ypres.
What was even more overwhelming was the amount of names of soldiers, that have no known resting place, on its walls (both on the interior and exterior of the gate).
We wondered if this was a distant relative of Mr Grimshaw's?
We were really lucky as the weather was beautiful.
The Duke of Lancaster's 'Last Post' Ceremony
Our approach to the Menin Gate on the evening of the ceremony. The gate looked amazing as we approached after our evening meal at an Ypres restaurant.
We were extremely lucky to have front row access to the parade as the gate was extremely busy.
It was a very moving experience.
Neuve Chapelle Indian Memorial (Neuve Chapelle, France)
On our final day we crossed the border back into France to join the Duke of Lancaster's regiment at Neuve Chapelle. This was the main reason for our visit, to pay respect to the Indian army's 'Jullundur Brigade'. It was exactly 100 years, to the day, since the brigade became involved in World War 1 (28th October, 1914).
This was how the Order of Service began.
Today the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, the Lion’s of England, are commemorating the actions of the Jullundur Brigade at Neuve Chapelle in 1914. The Brigade, which was then part of the Indian Army, included one of our antecedent Regiment’s, The 1st Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, along with what is now 5 Sikhs and 1st (Scinde) Frontier Force Regiment, from current day India and Pakistan respectively. Indeed to this day these Regiments remain affiliated and the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment retains links with both the Sikhs and FFR.
Panoramic views from inside the memorial.
There were lots of very important people at the ceremony. We were very lucky again to be right in the centre of it.
Zakki had the very important job of laying roses on the central memorial.
Zakki and Rayan with the regiment.
And with the Indian army (dressed in traditional WW1 uniforms).
We now have friends in very high places!
The 2014, 'Jullundur Project' group.
The Great War 1914 - 1918
100 Years Commemoration