I was in Flanders' Fields

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Willy Van der Linden

I was in Flanders' Fields

Post by Willy Van der Linden » Fri Jul 21, 2006 1:21 pm

Last week I was in Flanders' Fields. I visited my great uncles' graves. They
were two brothers. They were both soldiers in the artillery regiment : Frans
and Victor Van der Linden. Frans was my father's name. My father himself
was a volunteer in the Second World War and was buried in a military cemetery.
Frans is also my own third name. It was given to me to honour the young man
who died at the age of 24 in Flanders' Fields. When doing my research work
I discovered amazing things. One of my aunts still has a giant size photograph
of the two brothers. They were wearing an army uniform and smoking a cigarette.
One of my nieces still has the mortuary cards of my great uncles. I also
contacted the Royal Military Museum in Brussels. They still have the dossiers
of both soldiers. In it you can read how they behaved when they were in the
army. A copy of both files will be sent to me in a few days. I'm very anxious
to know what they will tell me. I also filmed in Flanders' Fields. I was
in Tyne Cot Cemetery. Terrible. The Battle of Passchendale (Passion Dale)
cost the lives of many, many young men from Britain, Canada, New Zealand...
I was in Langemark and Vladslo. In Langemark more than 44,000 German soldiers
are buried there... My film will be finished by the end of next year. At
least that's what I hope. Why do I tell you all this ? Because doing research
work is as interesting as doing the camerawork itself. It's also very essential
and sometimes you are surprised by the things you can discover.
While doing the camerawork I also saw some bad things. For instance, children
who were playing in the trenches and their young parents didn't say anything.
I had bad feelings. At the Menin Gate a wreath of poppies was floating on
the water of the moat. Probably someone had thrown it into the water ! Perhaps
he was drunk ! Yes, these are things that are inacceptable, but on the other
hand I saw hundreds of British schoolchildren who were listening to their
teachers while visiting Tyne Cot cemetery and the Menin Gate and you could
hear that they were impressed.
Many thanks, Ned, for your very good suggestion. I contacted the Imperial
War Museum. I wrote a message to them and they replied. They asked me to
go to the museum in London, then I can watch some archive footage. Of course
that's not possible, but I think I can also hire some films. I've asked them
and now I'm waiting for a new letter from the IWM.

Dave Watterson

Re: I was in Flanders' Fields

Post by Dave Watterson » Fri Jul 21, 2006 9:49 pm

"Willy Van der Linden" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:
Last week I was in Flanders' Fields. I visited my great uncles' graves.
I wonder how many of us are neglecting our own family as a source of stories
- either to tell as period pieces, or to adapt to a modern setting. There
must be tales from grandparents that might be fashioned into interesting

The sadness of vandalism - even at places of remembrance - may be attributable
to drink and/or a deep cynicism among younger people. In one sense a church,
mosque, synagogue, memorial is just so many bricks and stones ... not really
so different from any other place. In another sense these are the places
where we place our ideals, hopes and fears.

Last year during the UNICA festival's visit to Ypres, I was plucked from
the crowd and asked to say the words of remembrance under the Menin Gate
at 8pm. I was still trembling an hour later.

To declaim "They shall not grow old ..." whilst aware of the thousands of
names carved into the memorial all around us ... and realising that most
of those missing would be in their late teens ...
"Age shall not weary them ..." ... remembering that those thousands are just
the names of the people whose bodies have never been found or identified

I could not easily forgive the people who desecrated that place.


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