The Chessboard That Is This Salient.

Facing the direction of the gas attack, The Brooding Soldier at Vancouver Corner. (P. Ferguson image, 2016)

Facing the direction of the gas attack, The Brooding Soldier at Vancouver Corner was unveiled in 1923. (P. Ferguson image, 2016)

Ypres Day Four of Five

If someone were to ask how many speeds I had on my bicycle during this fine tour I would tell them uphill, glide and pedal.

This way of seeing the land that is the Ypres Salient has left an indelible mark on me. It is not just the sites themselves but it is the context of all things combined – the connections from one place to the next, the sounds, the experience. Today we start our expedition by cycling towards Kitcheners’ Wood. Along the way a jackhammar creates a stacatto tempo as we near an overpass where a squadron of pigeons has taken refuge. At Sint-Jan two crows wander about the grounds of their local war memorial and I am pleased to see that they have not forgotten about us.

Once at Kitcheners’ Wood a few snaps capture the aging wreaths and poppy crosses left at the footstep of the memorial. Behind the oakleaf memorial, and to the side, a lair of spiders have spun their traps. The webs blow haphazardly with each of nature’s breath across this plain and it is here that when the wind blows over the opening of the water bottle a slow howl adds to the effect of spiders and remembrance. From here we journey to see the Canadian memorial at Vancouver Corner. The Brooding Soldier, like a chessman, stands upon its foundation seemingly planning its next strategy, while visiting chess pieces move about at will. Coming from all sides, in vehicles, buses, on foot, and on bicycle all of us willingly snap his portrait.

Our next plan is to advance on Poperinghe, but strategy knows that sometimes you have to alter plans in order to achieve other results. Knowing that we are running out of time, we drift towards Vlamertinghe where another circus of crows cackle at us along the tree lined road, mocking our advance knowing that we are about to hit the wind again. Deciding not to advance on “Pop” we detour to Reninghelst where I accomplish my day’s assigned tasks. Understanding that we are weary I realize we will not make it to Hill 60 on this 2016 tour of the Ypres Salient and I soon relay this message. It is time to pedal towards Ypres.

Rarely travelling the same route twice, a new strategy is taken – we cycle back to the two towers of Ypres via De Klijte and Dikebus. Along the way we hear the dull thump of a compressed air nail gun, echoing the earlier jackhammer…and soon afterwards…we see our markers, two towers not unlike other pieces on the chessboard that is this Salient.

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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