Photos courtesy of other walkers and the charity.
Another early start, we left Arras at 0645 to drive to Vancouver Corner, just north of Ypres and the site of the first gas attack in 1915. This is also the site of the ‘Brooding Soldier’ memorial which commemorates those who were victims of the gas attack. Sadly the memorial was under scaffolding undergoing a refurb.
We were off the bus and ready to go around 0815.
From Vancouver Corner it was an easy, flat 5 or 6 miles to the first tea break at Poelcapelle Cemetery where over 7,000 men lie at rest, over 6,000 of which are unknown. Also in this cemetery is a 14 year old, allegedly, but further research is questioning the validity of that claim with records showing he was more likely c20.
After leaving Poelcapelle we were heading for the iconic village of Passchendaele, an easy 3 miles or so.
We paused at the Canadian memorial which marked the advance of the troops during the summer of 2017 and where a VC was won. Our next stop, about a mile further on was Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest CWGC cemetery in the world with over 12,000 men buried there and over 35,000 names of the missing on the wall at the back.
A pleasant mile or so along the old railway track to Zonnebeke took us to our final lunch stop in the grounds of the Passchendaele Musuem.
After lunch we visited Buttes New cemetery, the old German bunker in Polygon Wood and had our last tea stop at Hooge Crater cemetery.
It was then the final push to the Vijverhuis pub on Zillebeke Lake for the gathering point prior to walking en masse into Ypres. The cold beer at the Vijverhuis was nectar from the Gods. People were so happy to reach the end, all the aches and pains disappeared. We were formed up into a column and marched 2 by 2 into Ypres. All the patrons in the street cafes stood and applauded, it was such a great feeling.
Walking under the Menin Gate everyone’s emotions flooded over. Hugs, handshakes, tears, laughter and medals, and one final photo opportunity for the charity.
After a hot bath we reassembled at the Menin Gate for the ceremony of the Last Post. Our top 3 fundraisers laid a wreath on behalf of us all and the Charity and we then all retired to a local hostelry for a slap up dinner and lots of drink.
Finally, between us we’ve raised over £2,600 but the group as a whole, plus the group from the previous week who walked 100km along the Normandy Beaches, have managed to raise in excess of £260,000 with more to come.
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity – For Soldiers, For Life.