Thursday, May 13, 2010

Visiting Uncle Jack's grave at Ligny St Flochel, British Cemetry

Fred decided that he wanted to spend his 50th birthday, which fell in the middle of the long Ascension Day weekend, touring the countryside around Ieper/Ypres, visiting the sites of some of the largest battles' of the First World War, as well as bringing my mother to the grave of her Uncle Jack.

We found the location of his grave through the Commonwealth War Graves website and this took us deep into the countryside to the west of Arras, just off the road to Le Touquet. The grave is just outside the village of Ligny St-Flochel, in the commune of Averdoignt, set at the top of a hill looking out across green rolling landscape. A beautiful spot. The cemetry is marked on each of the four corners by a beautifully formed tree, as above, while on two parallels, there were four vertical yew trees, cut into the shape of a cypress. Every grave was well marked and beautifully tended.

The site told us that Uncle Jack's grave would be the fifth one along row 3C and sure enough, there it was, J. H. Stewart with the insignia of his regiment, Queen's Westminster Rifles, with the text ' No Morning Dawns, No Night Begins, But What We Think Of You'

It was very moving. I had to think of the loss felt by my dear Granny Mac, Uncle Jack's younger sister, who I knew and loved, as well as her parents, including my Mum's Grandpa Stewart, whose heart was broken by the loss of his son... and then to reflect that this would have been repeated for all the men laid to rest that this cemetry and then to all the millions who died in that terrible war.

We are very lucky to have had an institution, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to oversee the founding and maintenance of these cemetries. It is poignant to recall that prior to thsi war, the dead were just buried in mass graves, often unmarked, and all nameless, whilst 80% of the German dead of this war were never identified.

They said never again, but due to the political wranglings and imperial manoevrings of the Treaty of Versailles, Europe and the World would see another dreadful war just over 20 years after the end of this one...


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