A report from Pete Mossong on his 2008 visit
On November 3rd, 2008, after spending a couple of weeks touring the south and west of England, I headed off to France via the Eurostar train to Lille in northern France.
I spent a few hours exploring Lille, then made my way via the domestic railway system (very impressive, and scheduled trains always seemed to run on time) to Cambrai where I was to base myself for several days.
After having a good walk around Cambrai (and sampling some of the local food and beverages), I headed back to my motel for an early night ‘in’ as I was planning a very early start to the next day’s excursions!
In the morning of the 4th, I caught the first train to Valenciennes and from there to Le Quesnoy, arriving about 8.00 am to find the town full of flags of both France and New Zealand, either flying from poles or featured in displays in many of the shop windows.
My first task was to find and visit the New Zealand memorial where the Kiwis climbed the walls, and had no problem as it was well signposted in both languages.
A short walk up and over the wall brought me to a clearing on the path that circles the walls, and the site of the memorial.
I was lucky that my camera had now decided to behave itself (for the moment) as it had been giving me a few problems during my trip, and managed to get a couple of photos of the memorial plaque and its setting. It was a very quiet spot at that time of the morning.
The memorial is placed on the old walls, and as with the rest of the town, was very well cared for in appearance.
After a short time of contemplation there, I headed off for a walk around the town walls to explore the old Vauban fortifications and to have a better look at the town itself.
Of the many photos I took here, only the following one ‘stuck’ in my camera. Yes, it had decided to ‘play-up’ again!
After enquiring at the visitors Bureau which was by now open, the friendly ladies there informed me that the main ceremonies were to begin at 6.00 pm, and unfortunately I had to head back to Cambrai to undertake the second of my planned visits in the area. In the light of what happened in the afternoon, I now wish I’d had a crystal ball with me!
My impressions of Le Quesnoy were of a very pretty and well cared for town, and I’m glad I made the effort to get there, but still remain disappointed that I missed out on the ceremonial part of the day.
I returned by train to Cambrai in the early afternoon, and was hoping to find either a bus or a taxi to get to the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Beaulencourt where one of my WWI soldier relatives is buried.
My bad luck continued in that there were no taxis around, and no buses running that day as the drivers were on strike. This is the second time this has happened to me in France, as during a trip to Paris in 2001, the Public Service was on strike, and the Arc de Triomphe was closed to visitors!
I’ll have to do that one on a future visit to Europe!