One of the reasons for making this trip goes back almost 15 years. I was attending a Mess Diner at the officers Mess of the Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver. In the glass case was the regimental silver, and the colours of the regiment. Hanging there as well were all the Battle Pennants – the honours that a regiment receives for participating in an action. And on the top of them I saw the name Passchendaele. I didn’t know exactly were that was but I new the significance. Seeing that pennant was a stirring experience.
Well today I stood at the Canadian Memorial at Crest Farm, and looked at the Church Steeple of Passchendaele. This was the line of attack of the 72nd Bd (Seaforth Highlanders) with the Canadian Corp. The memorial was quiet and their was a young family out for a walk, sitting there. It is impossible to imagine the Moon-like surface that was the Battle of Passchendaele. Artillery fire in WWI appears to be the first reaction to anything. The towns of Ypres, Passchendaele, and others were pounded to ruble and then the ruble was turned to dust by following barrages. Even standing on this ground you can’t see how that is possible.
From Passchendaele I made a small detour to the Memorial to the PPCLI, This was a small circular memorial, beside a farmers field. In addition to the major memorials there are memorials to individual units like this around the salient.
Now I have moved on to the last Canadian national memorial here, the Memorial at Hill 62 commemorating the Battle of Mount Sorrel. There are 8 national memorials that Canada commissioned after WWI, I have now stood at 7 of them. I sit here on a sunny Sunday in Belgium and despite my desire to see what this place meant to the battle – the calm and beautiful memorial makes it impossible to conceive the landscape of 1916.