Posted By pferguson on December 1, 2013
Visiting Talbot House 2013
Sometimes it is worthwhile letting some time pass by. It’s an opportunity for better reflection and gathering those thoughts that have laced their way through our day until this moment when at long last it is time to sit down and put virtual type to virtual paper.
The most memorable visit on our recent sojourn to France and Flanders was a stop at Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium. It was here that soldiers of the Great War were able to get away, even if momentarily, from the harsh realities of the frontlines in the Ypres Salient.
As I stand at the front of the building I look upwards to the sign dated 1915 – ? The last time I was here the building was covered with scaffolding but this time we are told of a side entrance whereby we gain entry into this wonderful site. It is filled, from the outset, with the hearts and souls of those who have passed through here from 1915 – 1918. It was here that soldiers gathered for a bit…and then returned to the scorched and twisted landscape…some never to pass this way again.
I was immediately taken with the house and its furnishings and signs. It is here that the Great War is at peace today. I remember climbing about the stairs, looking at the rooms and then to the stairs leading to the loft. The stairs were rather pitched and narrow, but still we managed to climb into the loft where church services continue to be performed. After having watched, in another part of the building, a short film on Talbot House troop entertainments, we settled onto some chairs and it was here that our guide brought her words to us, creating an even greater sense of this place. “Twenty years ago there were veterans here. Their eyes, a thousand stars away. They don’t see you. They see other things”. (Annette, Camalou Tours) These words continue to remind me what Talbot House meant to those who visited during the Great War, and how their experiences have shaped some of us fortunate to have met a few of those witnesses to the war to end all wars.
Private Harry Patch died July 25, 2009 at the age of 111 years, 1 month, 1 week and 1 day. During the Great War he served with the 7th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry as an assistant gunner with the Lewis Gun section. Harry Patch was wounded September 22, 1917 at Passcehendale, during the Third Battle of Ypres.