Here Be Dragons

The Red Dragon of Wales on the Pilckem Ridge, Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

The Red Dragon of Wales on the Pilckem Ridge, Belgium.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Unsure of our bearings we rode…

Observing the horizon I watch familiar church towers on the horizon drift back and forth in perspective. Distant…closer…always to our right or soon to be on our right. The roads meander here amongst the fields of battle and bounty. At times and without warning (no orange pylons here) the onset of “construction defence” systems take us on unexpected detours – and the whole while I keep watch…to ensure, when we are ready, to find whence we came.

Onward we ride, occasionally we stop, the bicycles need a rest and…astride the frame I gaze upon our chart, raise my head to look across the edges and then upwards towards the sun. I drink its glowing warmth…rest my eyes within this heavenly sea of blue. We are not at the edges of the world.

A handy golf telescope (range finder) has proven itself here in the Salient. I scan the landscape from left to right and back again and in the distance something now comes into view, reminiscent of what we seek, though we are unawares. Soon it will become recognizable…in a short while we have happened upon Pilckem Ridge…here be dragons.

Welsh Memorial Park. (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Welsh Memorial Park.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Welsh Memorial Park is located between Langemarck and Pilckem. The memorial is sited on a ridge where the Battle of Pilckem Ridge took place 31 July – 2 August 1917. It is here at Pilckem that men of the Welsh Divisions, the 29th and 38th, and the regiments of Wales are commemorated, the Welsh Guards, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Welch Regiment, South Wales Borderers and Monmouthshire Regiment. The Red Dragon, Y Ddraig Goch, is the only Great War national memorial to the Welsh located outside of their home country…and it is new…dedicated in 2014. As well, the memorial further commemorates those individuals of Welsh heritage no matter where they served and so too any soldier who served within Welsh units and divisions. To all those of Welsh descent who took part in the First World War between 1914 and 1918.

Our time at Pilckem draws to a close, it is time to ride. This is our first visit to the site where the Red Dragon stands upon the Pontypridd stone cromlech. We push forward, the dragon unlike its days on charts as warnings has delivered two Canadians new directions towards our Ieper (Ypres) home…

I scan the landscape from left to right…so it continues…here be dragons.

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 in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time 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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