Mud, Memory and Musings

Poppy cross covered with mud at the graveside of Sgt. E.E. Patchman MM, Australian Field Artillery, Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. (P. Ferguson iimage 2016)

Poppy cross covered with mud at the graveside of Sgt. E.E. Patchman MM, Australian Field Artillery, Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. (P. Ferguson image 2016)

Ypres Day One of Five

The train arrives at Lille once again and I am most pleased to be back on this familiar expedition towards the Ypres Salient. As our driver takes us on our journey past drifting towns, villages and landmarks he is careful to avoid the many sail-less bicycles drifting to and fro on this tideless Car Free Sunday in France.  Understanding what I am about to observe – is it serendipitous that the R.E.M. song, “It’s the end of the world as we know it” begins to play from the radio?

Once in Ypres (Ieper) , Belgium we are soon off to Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, St. Martin’s Cathedral, a visit to the “In Flanders Fields Museum”, and then the 8:00 PM Last Post at Menin Gate. In between wanderings I am careful to observe and listen, to those signs and sounds that imply more about our sojourn. A modern trench across a roadway cuts into the earth revealing layers of Ypres history whilst alongside the modern scar lie mounds of rusty rebar that stoke within me images of damaged fortifications revealing their decaying metal supports. Horse Chestnuts land with vigour on the paved portion of the roadway with a dull whump – nature’s shrapnel balls landing en masse in search of passing quarry.

Within the Grote Marke church bells can be heard as a dogfight of spent crows dance along the roof tops after a day of chasing each other. Before the evening ceremony a quick recce to Menin Gate where the names of Flander’s missing are recorded. As I stand amongst these panels I think upon that time of the Great War, 1914 – 1918 and then upon this visit that will include day trips to Ploegsteert, Poperinghe and Passchendaele. Names once common in the every day life of that earlier generation who faced the end of the world and whose sacrifice and legacies make me appreciate that I feel fine.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. 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 captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration 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 inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", 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 was 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, Paul 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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