The visit to the battle fields and the Menin gate memorial monument in Ypres proved to be a memorable and also a heart wrenching visit to the site of overwhelming human suffering and death in the battle fields around Ypres 100 years ago in the Great War - for all involved in the conflict.
Our group of ten fanciers and friends namely Dr P Lynch & Mrs M Lynch; Mr & Mrs Jim & Joyce Lumsden; Mr & Mrs Duncan & Pamela McKenzie; Mr & Mrs Donald & Linda Brooks and Mr & Mrs Donald & Sandra Mackintosh had a never to be forgotten experience. Friendships were established and a sense of camaraderie prevailed throughout the trip reminiscent of the true camaraderie experienced by our much younger forbears at the start of this terrible war.
We are indebted to Stefaan van Moerbeke and his son Kris for the attention, care and effort they made on our behalf to ensure our trip was such a wonderful experience. We were treated as royalty and VIP's by the Belgian authorities in Ypres - many of them active pigeon fanciers. Stefaan and Kris drove us in two mini-buses and ensured we visited all the grave sites and important battle fields including nearby Paschandaele encompassing British, Commonwealth and German grave sites and monuments such as Tyne Cote, Black Watch Corner and the monument to Black Watch soldiers killed also the trenches and battle field medical station run by the famous Dr John McCrae.
We transported and presented a beautiful fresh wreath made in Scotland and laid it at the world famous Menin Gate memorial monument to British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the conflict. The wreath laying ceremony has taken place at the Menin Gate since the 1920's at 8pm and every night since.
The ceremony was packed to capacity and was a most moving and privileged event to take part in on behalf of the SNFC and all the pigeons that were used as messengers in the heat of battle in those terrible conflicts. We were also able to identify and lay a family memorial wreath at the grave of a relative of John Harwood pigeon scribe who was killed at Ypres.
The dinner we attended on the Saturday night with our seven Belgian guests was magnificent and we presented authentic Scottish tartan scarves to the wives of our guests and a gift to the burgermeister of Ypres Luc de Haine. A gift from our group was also presented to our drivers Stefaan and his son Kris for the organisation and transporting of the group throughout the visit.
On the return to the ferry at Zebrugge on the Monday Stefaan took us to visit the city of Brugge.
All in all this was a memorial visit much enjoyed by all and though harrowing at times due to the massive human carnage involved will never be forgotten.
I hope we can repeat the visit in 2018 to commemorate the end of the Great horrific War.