Ypres Salient 2017

For a Thousand Years

Each new day here on the Salient brings something new to my being. Though we have seen many of these places before with each new step there is a new experience to feel, a new plain to watch across. Today we have traded four wheels for two, from fossil fuel to foot power and roll along the Salient towards Zillebeke Churchyard where we visit amongst those here since the Great War and of whom 10 are Canadian soldiers. Near to the church a stone angel watches over one grave but a guardian to them all. It is to be a day of church bells, the soundtrack of the soul. We move towards Mont Sorrel and encounter the memorial to the 15th Battalion C.E.F. (the 48th Highlanders) who served here with the 1st Canadian Division. As the grass cutter passes by he waves to two Canadians standing, reading and watching.

A short ride later we enter Maple Copse Cemetery and walk amongst the rows, name after name, story upon story. What is their voice from then to now? They have been here for all this time and yes we will remember them and judging by the numbers of people here we will remember them for a thousand years…and more. The passage of time can be unkind, but as I walk these sites, carefully tended, I cannot help but walk towards those with records of visitors who have left their mark, a Lady Haig poppy cross, a wreath, a photo, a story or a simple stone upon the marker. Today too is to be a day of harvest, finding this evidence of commemoration, finding the light and snapping a record of what I observe here.

More is to follow as we move towards Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery where several soldiers of Jimmy Richardson’s battalion are buried. Here side by side, soldiers of the 16th Battalion C.E.F. (Canadian Scottish) rest in perpetuity. Guardians to this day of this salient and for a thousand years…and more. Our day is not done as we move to higher ground towards Hill 60 where once again the pillbox provides a matinee of poppy crosses, wreaths and story…it is crowded with remembrance…it is crowded with visitors. Moving across country we detour via a smaller road that takes us cross country towards Bellewaarde and Hooge Crater where we stop to rest absorbing a local hop varity before entering Hooge Crater Cemetery to find more records from visitors.

These reminders mark important visits. So too the comments in registers at these Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries. Visitors from afar and nearby, visitors who have come to remember a family member they never met. They are related and so they have come, whether it be way back when, this day or tomorrow…for a thousand years we can remember them… and all we have to do is to let it happen.


About The Author

pferguson
In April 2007 Paul met Casey and Ian Williams of the Paradigm Motion Picture Company in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul has worked with Paradigm since 2009 as Producer and Historian. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was amazed by films such as David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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