Somewhere in Belgium

A SOLDIER OF THE GREQT WAR CANADIAN SCOTTISH. Bedford House Cemetery; Belgium. (P. Ferguson image 2016)

A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR CANADIAN SCOTTISH. Bedford House Cemetery. Belgium. (P. Ferguson image 2016)

Ypres Day Two of Five

Today it is a return to Ploegsteert and as we lumber our way across the roadway towards the Rijselpoort, the cobbles remind us every few seconds that we are not quite at our peak for the day. Heading south we successfully navigate our way in approxiamately an hour to Ploegseert Church. The church is today’s main objective and specifically the churchyard cemetery where two early fatalities of the 7th Battalion C.E.F. (1st B.C. Regiment) are buried. Both Lieuteant Herbert Beaumont Boggs and Private Thomas Sutton lost their lives while training with British regiments before their battalion proceeded to the frontlines. Although I had been here several years before to photograph Private Sutton’s resting place, today I am here for Lieuteant Boggs, a near neighbour in Victoria to General Arthur Currie G.C.M.G., K.C.B. Boggs’ father later assisted with the creation of Victoria’s War Memorial at the corner of Belleville and Government Streets.

Once our initial  task is completed the day is ours for excursions to whatever takes our fancy. One hour to Ploegsteert – 7.5 hours back to Ypres. Many of the towns we had seen previously but only in terms of skirting interests as there never seemed to be time to stop, always pressing on to the next site. The bikes teach us much, apart from bouncing across cobblestones, we become cognizant of bicycle etiquette, learn to understand the do’s and dont’s of roundabouts, sidewalks and rights of way. More importantly elevation becomes an issue as we realize what a rise in terrain may mean for troops on the ground – (always the high ground!) In between the towns of Ypres and Ploegsteert we spend extra time at Mesen, explore in and around Wijtschate and visit many of the area’s Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries. Some might ask what we find in these sites that for many are not chosen destinations? We are here to see what we can see. To read the names, to see family commemorations, epitaphs and find the images that help their voices speak once again. Many images will never make it to publication but their role as reference and creating connection is absolute.

In between our foot wanderings, our wheeled wanderings allow us to observe and comment on the unexpected and how these sites continue to impact us and others. All the while I am listerning counting the heard churchbells today at 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM as well as at 8:30 PM when in Ypres. So too the crows seem to have found us again, gliding their way effortlessly around church steeples at Ploegsteert and Mesen, or mimicing us as we ride our bikes, it’s almost laughter from our flighted friends watching us struggle on the ground whereas they chose the sky.

Always watching for the towers of the Ypres Cloth Hall and St. Martin’s Cathedral on the horizon a decision is made to choose one last place to visit for the day as the towers come into view. It is at Bedford House Cemetery where I think upon the phrase “Somewhere in Belgium” after photographing the headstone of an unknown Canadian Scottish soldier. What his family must have gone through only knowing that somewhere in Belgium their lad lay. And here we stand…a little reminder of why we do this…somewhere in Belgium.

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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