A short while ago, I boarded a ferry and sailed over to Calais in Northern France. I then spent the next few days sitting on a coach going between Belgium and France visiting World War 1 cemetery's, memorials, battlefields and museums. It was a truly eye-opening trip and one that I will never forget.
During my visit I found some information about a Great Uncle of mine, who died at the age of 17 on the 19th April 1918. He was part of the Northumberland Fusiliers regiment.
This story begins with a visit to the magnificent Tyne Cot Cemetery. Standing near the entrance, I saw the Northumberland Fusiliers memorial. My Great Uncle's name was not engraved into it.
At this point, there were tears.
I realized that if his name was not on the memorial, his body must have been recovered. So a dear friend of mine and I headed to the cemetery records in search of his name. After a short while we found it and were able to note down the location of his grave.
Unfortunately, my time at the cemetery was very limited and I was unable to locate his grave. However I now know its rough location and the knowledge that his body was recovered gave me a lot of closure which was very much needed.
I intend to go back and visit the cemetery and discover his grave so that I can pay my respects and leave a British Legion Cross of Remembrance. However, for now, there is a British Legion Cross perched in front of the Northumberland Fusiliers memorial, with a little message from myself written on it.
Witnessing so many cemetery's including those of German soldiers who lost their lives made me feel very numb to the war which intended to end all wars. I feel I have returned to Britain having had a bit of a reality check and feel that I have got my priorities a little straighter now.
Although it was a very dark and solemn trip, I was also able to form better close bonds with my friends. I am very appreciative of that as I know that those friendships may last a lifetime.
Like I said previously, visiting Belgium and France was a real eye-opener for me and I learnt a great deal from the short trip.
I have a new-found respect for all those who lost their lives in the war and fought for everything that is our world today.
If you are interested in the world's past I strongly recommend you visit a WW1 cemetery or war memorial. They are such beautiful places to visit and are kept in such good condition.