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Free music - Best of 2009






My journey began on an ordinary Monday morning when we boarded a coach at 6 a.m from the Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Norwich.

Apart from a "comfort break" and a very swift cup of coffee at a service station, it was non stop to Folkestone for the Channel Tunnel Shuttle. A misunderstanding regarding the bookings meant we were unable to catch our scheduled 10.21 a.m shuttle and had to wait for over an hour.

Our late arrival at Calais meant that the first stopping point - Poperinge - had to be dropped and so it was straight to our first war graves at Essex Farm, pictures of which are below.

Essex Farm stands as a memorial to John McCrae and got its name from a small cottage that stood nearby.

During the war it was the site of bunkers and included a medical dressing station.

Canadian medical officer McCrae served at Essex Farm and whilst there wrote the famous poem "In Flanders Fields" in 1915 in memory of a fallen colleague.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place.

The poem was responsible for the poppy becoming the emblem of the Royal British Legion.

The above grave has no particular relevance. Just a typical grave apart from the fact that I know a Blackburn family who come from West Yorkshire. At the present time I have no idea whether this private was related to them. The inscription is simple: "Private P. Blackburn West Yorkshire Regiment 20th December 1916, Age 19.

Private Blackburn was at least identified. Many still lie buried under the French and Belgium soil. Many graves contain unidentified bodies with the simple inscription: "A Soldier of the Great War Known Unto God."

In his illustrated history of the First World War, John Keegan puts it all in a nutshell:

"The graveyards remain. Many of those who died in battle could never be laid to rest. Their bodies had been blown to pieces by shellfire and fragments scattered beyond recognition. Many other bodies could not be recovered during the fighting and were then lost to view.

At the war's end the remains of nearly half of those lost remained lost in actuality. Of the British Empire's million dead, the bodies of over 500,000 were never to be found."

Each British body was given a separate grave, recording name, age, rank, regiment and date and place of death. The cemeteries were planted as classic English country gardens with mown grass between the headstones and roses and other plants.

On top of the one million British Empire troops, the Germans lost two million, the French 1.7 million, the Habsburg Empire 1.5 million, Russia 1.7 million, Italy 460,000 and Turkey lost hundreds of thousands. Little surprise that the phrase "a lost generation" came to have particular significance after the war.