Hi Frugalistas! I’m making some changes to my Friday fotos series – moving it from a photo essay to a short selection of photos with a short narrative. To start I’m so delighted to be able to share this piece on ANZAC Day. ANZAC (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) Day is the most important day for Australians and New Zealanders to remember their servicemen and women. The day itself, 25 April, commemorates the day the ANZACs landed at Gallipoli in Turkey in 2015, which remains one of both countries’ greatest military disasters. ANZAC Day is a day of reflection for all battles, in all wars and to remember the courage of all who serve our country. My photos today are special. They come from a visit I made in 2011 to the World War I battle fields of Flanders in Belgium.
There are many war grave cemeteries in Flanders, particularly around the town of Ypres. I was fortunate to visit a number of them during a day trip from Bruges.
The first cemetery we visited was a German war grave cemetery. The grave stones are horizontal to the ground. Our guide told us how, as part of the agreement to conclude the war (the Treaty of Versailles) Germany agreed that none of their war graves would be vertical. The Germans were to be submissive even in death. The only vertical object allowed in this particular cemetery is the sculpture representing the four branches of the German armed forces – Army, Navy, Air Force and Medical Corps. I was saddened to learn that while Allied cemeteries are maintained by respective governments (Australia has a War Graves Commission for the purpose for example) the German war graves in Belgium and France are maintained by volunteers. Many of the volunteers are German, but also representatives of the Allied Forces. At the German cemetery we visited, I noticed a wreath laid by an English school group the day before our visit.
Contrast the sombre German cemetery with the Commonwealth one I’m featuring here. The US and Canada have their own separate war grave cemeteries, while ANZAC soldiers are buried in Commonwealth war cemeteries that also include British and Irish dead. Walking among the grave stones is a sad and poignant reminder of just how young many of these men were. Some were injured beyond recognition – their graves are marked as unknown soldiers “known only unto God”. Others contain poems and make reference to the sadness of their mothers and families so far away. Row upon row of tragedy and loss.
The Flanders battlefields are just nearby the often visited picturesque town of Bruges. A visit to the battlefields and the town of Ypres remain one of the most meaningful days I’ve ever spent travelling.