The choristers packed up early from Ypres to travel to their next destination, Kortrijk, but on the way, they’d have a full day of rehearsals for the Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood.
They arrived on site and took in all the beauty, all the while more appreciated knowing what happened in this region.
Rehearsals were for both the pre-dawn and Dawn Service for Tuesday morning. During breaks, choristers climbed the buttes (ridge) to the Fifth Division Memorial overlooking the Buttes New British Cemetery, catching up with our APs at various stages along the way.
Behind the memorial, there is a path through the woods which attendees at the Dawn Service will walk through on Tuesday.
Throughout the wood, fabric poppies have been planted and at one check point Flanders Fields plays (the version performed by our Birralee Blokes!).
After rehearsals, the choir and APs travelled to pay respect to Private Patrick Budgen VC, laid to rest at Hooge Crater Cemetery.
Private Bugden is the ancestor of Bernie Knapp. Geraldine Knapp was the former Councillor of the Gap Ward in Brisbane and was instrumental in helping Voices of Birralee in its early stages.
Private Bugden served in the 31st Battalion, Australian Infantry. He was killed in action on 28 September 1917, aged only 20. In the Story of Paddy Budgen VC by John Barnes, a part of Private Budgen’s letter to his mother is noted:
“Going to my duty every week and if by chance anything happens to me, rest assured that I feel in my heart that I shall gain a place of happiness for I have never done a deed in my life that I am ashamed of. So I fear nothing.”
Private Bugden was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery. The Australian National Memorial notes that the events that led to this award took place in late September 1917.
“On two occasions, when held up by intense fire from machine-guns, he led small parties to silence the enemy posts. Five times he rescued wounded men trapped by intense shelling and machine-gun fire. Once, seeing that an Australian corporal had been taken prisoner, he single-handedly rushed to his comrade’s aid, shooting and bayoneting the enemy. He kept fighting until he was killed.On two occasions, when held up by intense fire from machine-guns, he led small parties to silence the enemy posts. Five times he rescued wounded men trapped by intense shelling and machine-gun fire. Once, seeing that an Australian corporal had been taken prisoner, he single-handedly rushed to his comrade’s aid, shooting and bayoneting the enemy. He kept fighting until he was killed.”
Our choir sang Amazing Grace to Private Bugden’s grave.
After leaving the cemetery, our crew arrived in Kortrijk which will be our home for the next four nights.
The choir had a few hours’ break, exploring the town, before they headed back to Buttes New British Cemetery for night time rehearsal so that lighting could be tested to see how it will look in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The lighting provided a completely different mood to what was experienced during the day.
Overall it was a huge day for our choristers with Day 4 (Sunday) also set to be eventful. It will begin with rehearsals again before we’ll be heading back to Kortrijk to perform at Saint-Martin’s Church’s service.
#belvob2017 #wewillrememberthem #ww1