Ieper and Menin Gate
Today we started the day with a visit to the "In Flanders Fields" Museum in the Cloth Hall in Ieper. This has been completely refurbished since we last visited it in 2008 but it was worth the wait. The new displays are amazing and really allowed our students to fill in the gaps and to get their head around much of what they had learned in the past few weeks. It also meant that they could climb the bell tower and get a 360o view of the surrounding battlefields.
After this we had some free time to shop and to reflect. In the late afternoon we headed to the Menin Gate to complete the last soldier commemorations for this tour. After tea we returned to the Gate to take part in the famous "Last Post" ceremony.
Wow! Tonight's ceremonies was absolutely amazing! Mikey and Alysha saying the ode really set the scene once the buglers finished the Last Post. As Anne sang the anthem I had goose bumps. It was both beautiful and peacefull and is a great credit to herself. Anne you should be extremely proud of yourself and I am glad I had the privilege to hear you sing it.
The 12/12/12 is a day I will remember for ever. This morning we went to the In Flanders Fields Museum.The thing that hit me most was the soldiers recounts of the 1914 Christmas Truce. This is the best museum I have ever been to, everything was thought out, easy to read, and they had done everything in 4 different languages. They had left nothing out making it such a great informative place.
This afternoon being at Menin Gate and knowing that it was our last commemoration was sad. Everyone spoke with such meaning and honesty about their soldiers and their sacrifices . Hearing the personal touches that everyone had included showed the true impact that this experience has had on each and everyone of us.
Julie spoke about the last commemoration and how it would hit us once we had finished; I didnt think about this conversation much, but she was totally right. Listening to the Last Post being played on our last day of commemoration was a strange feeling.
Hugging Julie I was a blubbering mess. All the work over the last year was done. But this experience will last a life time. The awareness of the sacrifices that these brave men made had made it possible for us to live the way we do today and that is unforgettable to say the least.
Later on at the ceremony, we may have been having a bit of a laugh and mucking around before the ceremony. But as soon as those bugles started to play it was an instantaneous change in the atmosphere.
It was an honour to be voted to be one of the people in the group to be part of the official ceremony at Menin Gate. Waiting for Demi to salute then walking up the stairs with Zac was incredible. The timing was perfect, and it felt like we had been preparing and practicing for weeks.
Anne , singing the Australian National Anthem, in frount of all those people with the most beautiful voice. Her voice travelled throughout the air all around us, surrounding us in this bubble under the gate. This is the most I have cried so far, seeing her up there, singing out of respect for all the list of lost soldiers on behalf of not just our group but the whole of Australia.
Having random strangers come up too us and shake our hand, congratulating us was such a buzz, knowing that we had done the job to the best of our ability, while still understanding the true meaning behind us doing it.
It was finished off with a huge group hug, most people crying knowing that that was our last official commemoration based thing. Meaning the end of this experience is drawing awfully close.
Today was our very last commemorative one. Julie warned us about the wierd feeling we would have but I thought to myself that I wouldn't feel that way.But man was i wrong!! After the commemorations at the Menin Gate, Julie gave a little speech. During it a sense of sadness overwhelmed me and the waterworks were back! I can't believe it's all over, no more soldiers, for this trip anyway. The Mening Gate ceremony was absolutely amazing. It took my breath away how the group came together and produced a beautiful ceremony. Anne's performance of the National Anthem was breathtaking, and once again I had tears. A perfect way to end the commeorative part of the trip. The "In Flanders Fields" museum was incredible. I loved every bit of it; very much worth seeing it.
I felt so unbelievably proud to participate in the Menin Gate ceremony. This ceremony was so important to the commemorative part of this trip. Although the audience may not have come to see us and Australians in particular, it still felt incredible to have people know witness our devotion to our fallen soldiers. It wasn't until the ceremony that seeing 'AUSTRALIAN' on that wall followed by so many familiar names really impacted on me. Having the bugelers play the last post, along with the Anne singing the National Anthem made it seem real. Those names had not just been out there to comfort mourning loved ones and forgotten, they were commemorated every night. It means so much to see others remember in such a passionate way.
We had the last of the commemorations at the Menen gate today, so all of the soldiers commemorated were never found. For me I found this hard to deal with as my other soldiers had graves and so finishing with William who didn't have a grave, felt like we weren't finishing at all.
Later that evening though we took a part in the nightly ceremonies and I was given the part of singing the National anthem. At first I was nervous, but once I started singing I wasn't nervous at all and I think that's because I knew I had the support of the whole group behind me, I couldn't have been prouder to stand up there for all of us.
The Menin gate was our last commemorative service of the trip and I'm sad ro see it end. The commemorations themselves were amazing just as they had been throughout the trip but the highlight was definitely the Last Post service. At 7.30pm we all rugged up well I did the best I could in my uniform) and headed to the Menin Gate. When we arrived nerves were running pretty high, at least mine were, and I think jake's were as well. Being used to these sorts of ceremonies I went to jake to discuss how we could do it. After Bianca, Zac, Jake and I had a quick practice it was go time!! Everything went to plan and I was so proud of all of us. The service was followed by many hugs, tears and laughs. It was such an amazing experience to be able to do this public service in honour of the soldiers and with such amazing people!! It was the perfect end to such an amazing commemorative journey and I will definitely never ever forget it!!!