My first trip to Pas de Calais

by | Oct 15, 2009 | Stories | 0 comments

First a smooth ferry crossing, then down from Dunkerque to our friends for a meal. Woke up next day, by the sea in Wimereux!
Did the shopping thing, the first day!
Next day, Nigel and I walked up to Wimereux cemetery, along rue McCrae. First thought, was of pure peace. The reality of seeing the names engraved, with poignant messages and regimental badges, brought sadness – those lying there were real, not just something of tele, or in a history lesson. A fleeting moment of anger followed – then the peace returned. Very mixed emotions. Nigel and I went our own way, so we could each spend private time with our thoughts and prayers.
Nigel thoughtfully and quietly took some photos for me.
The memorial stone for the poet John McRae, sits in appearance, like he is looking over in protection on the fallen that lie there, bringing comfort.
The headstones lie flat in this cemetery, due to the sandy soil.
All nationalities, some women and those poor souls with no names, lie side by side.
We then took a quiet walk along the seafront and sat with our friend, who joined us, in her beach hut – seemed appropriate for this day – to sit and look at the sea that played such an important role in both wars.
Boulogne in the rain, the following day – enough said!
Penultimate day, a visit to Cap Griz Nez followed by a drive down the coast to Le Touquet.

On the way back, we pulled into a lay- by and spread out before us was Etaples Military cemetery, the largest commonwealth cemetery in France. Here the pure white headstones were standing, in the sunshine on a manicured lawn, beautifully architectural. The scene swept away before us – the magnitude of loss, almost too much to take in, in one place, knowing there were so many other cemeteries.
I believe the saying now – there is beauty in silence. A time for a blessing in remembrance.
A last meal with our friend and her family on the evening then up packed and off by lunchtime on the Sunday. Stopping off at Cap Nez Blanc – where we had a close up sight of a peregrine – free on these cliffs that were once part of the Atlantic Wall, littered still with stark concrete reminders. Too much rain to look round Dunkerque, so popped into Belgium, where it rained heavier! Evening ferry and home.

Many things struck me on this trip – I have mentioned before the magnitude of loss, but also so many monuments erected in remembrance. The fallen are not forgotten here. Signs of the occupation – in grey concrete are also still here, slowly being reclaimed by the marram grass and brambles. Eroded by the sea and being covered with sand. Nature speaks in greater volumes than any war.

Bless all the fallen. May they sleep and rest in peace.


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