42F (King’s Lynn) Sqn ATC Visit to Ypres

The King’s Lynn based Air Cadet Squadron, which is affiliated to TIW, recently travelled across to Belgium to visit the historic Flemish town of Ypres, the scene of so much fighting during the First World War.

The visit was intended to allow the Cadets to both study and pay homage to the activities of the British Forces in what was known then as the Ypres salient, where so much fierce fighting took place and where so many British servicemen were killed or wounded during the fighting.

For some it was their first journey abroad, just as it would have been for many of those who travelled out in much less comfortable circumstances nearly 100 years before.

Although the town of Ypres, which was commonly known by British troops as ‘Wipers’ appears to be very historic, with many fine old buildings appearances can be deceptive, as the Cadets were to find out when they saw the photographs of the utter devastation that the town was in at the end of the war. It was remarkable that it was able to rebuild in the same style as it was, before the fighting took place.

With Maj Gary Walker our tour guide out in front, we took in each of the major battles of the salient and sites where the fighting took place although it is very hard to imagine now the scenes of utter carnage and destruction that would have met those marching up to the front when the fighting took place. However, the reminder of those days in the form of monuments and the multitude of CWGC cemeteries was never far away and are a constant reminder of what did take place and the sacrifices that so many made on our behalf in the cause of freedom.

We were also able to pay homage to those who died during the fighting planting a number of crosses at the graves of individuals, whose history had been studied prior to the visit.

The highlight of the visit was undoubtedly being able to take part in the Last Post Ceremony which is conducted at the Menin Gate Memorial each evening at 8pm. This symbolic ceremony is always well attended and in front of a large audience, the Sqn paid its respects to the fallen by laying a wreath, this followed by a faultless rendition of the Exaltation.

Unfortunately, but having had an excellent visit it was all too soon that we were boarding the coach for the return journey, each no doubt with their own memories of that significant part in our history, which we, as a nation, promised never to forget.

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