The choir was up early on Day Two to leave the much loved Brugge to head to the next check point of the tour, Ypres, in West Flanders.
First stop on the way was discovering the historical relevance of Dunkirk in French Flanders at the Fort des Dunes Museum.
Dunkirk is commonly known for its significance during WW2 (the recent movie Dunkirk is based on when 338,000 allied troops were evacuated from the beaches of France from May – June 1940).
At the museum our crew discovered about this massive effort, as well as the site’s relevance to WW1 and previous conflicts. Self-guided tours took the choristers through bunkers, cells and over forts.
After lunch in the nearby town of Dunkirk, the group were taken to Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission burial ground for the WW1 dead.
While reading about the history of this site, which has over 10,000 buried of 30 nationalities, it was realised that on 21 September 1917 (which was the day we were visiting – simply 100 years later), the cemetery had buried the most soldiers, 107.
In a tribute to those lost, our choristers sang We Will Remember Them (based on the word’s from Laurence Binyon’s famous ode).
One of our choristers, Amirah Farrell, found her ancestor, Thomas Marshall’s grave. Marshall served in the 4th Reinforcements, 22nd Battalion, enlisting on 15 July 1915.
He died on 9 November 1917 from wounds in Zonnebeke, Belgium. Below, Amirah talks about the significance of how she will be singing at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Polygon Wood on Tuesday morning, where her relative was injured a century ago.
Our choristers and accompanying people then found an Australian soldier’s grave to stand behind, and each wrote down the name of the soldier to research their history.
This afternoon the choir arrived in Ypres, for its first performance. Two of our choristers, Kerry and Lucy squeezed a quick trip to the In Flanders’ Fields Museum exploring the toll of WW1 on this region.
It’s a significant region – as we were driving into the town, the bus driver pointed out the author of In Flanders Fields, Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae is buried in Wimereux Cemetery nearby.
There were many incredible displays at the museum, and this was one of them – This piece of wood notes the destruction WW1 caused (see the dark almost triangular markings), but symbolically shows that life goes on from destruction with the tree continuing to grow with rings outside these markings.
That night, our choir performed at the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate, a nightly memorial dedicated to the Commonwealth and British who went missing during WW1.
It was amazing how quickly the crowd gathered, with rows going back five people or so. It’s incredible that this kind of remembrance service gets such support.
Our choir sang Amazing Grace and Danny Boy during the wreath laying ceremony and the acoustics were fantastic – the voices seemed to float up and around the arches and against the walls. As the service ended, a number of attendees thanked our choir and asked where we were from.
As you can see, Day Two was massive, with Day Three (Friday) also to be full of activity. This will begin with a rehearsal with the band, followed by technical rehearsals at Zonnebeke for the Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood.
Tomorrow evening we will travel to Lille in France to perform a concert with the International Singers.
#belvob2017 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget #music