by Eris Parker
The reason for my overseas trip in 2006 was to tie up the research I had been doing for the past 18 years on Cambridge WW1 Soldiers by photographing the areas of battles, cemeteries and their headstones.
My book ‘Cambridge WW1 - Something to Remember’ was published in 2000 and included our Cambridge soldiers who died in WW1, as well as what Cambridge was doing during 1914 - 1918.
During my research I was able to establish who our soldiers were, where they fought, the battles they were involved with and where they died. The names on our Cambridge cenotaph have become real people.
The Cambridge RSA gave me poppies to put on our soldiers’ graves.
I was led to believe that most of the cemeteries I wanted to see in France and Belgium could be included in the ‘Tag Along Tour’ so I set out to make travel arrangements. From Anzac Day at Le Quesnoy to a British ‘Leger Tour’ of Gallipoli - was about six weeks. This allowed time for ‘work’ and a holiday.
Through the Cambridge Editionnewspaper I let residents know that I could photograph their relative’s headstones in the cemeteries I was going to visit. I had 16 requests and was able to carry out 9.
19 April I set off, flew to Paris and met up with some of our group. What with hassles with the hire van and one thing and another I lost the first day’s research and we arrived at Le Quesnoy at 6pm. Just in time for the welcome speeches.
I was billeted with a lovely couple and our stay with our Sister City was first class.
We were privileged to see the bells (about 50 - all sizes) in their town hall tower and we watched a demonstration of their carillon; visit the Baron and Baroness at the Chateau de Potelle; and took a tour of the Beaudignies municipal offices conducted by Mayor Raymonde. These visits were especially organised for our group.
The Le Quesnoy Friendship Association provided lunch, dinner and suppers - they love speeches, singing and cheese.
The area around Le Quesnoy saw the last battles for the New Zealanders and I was able to get a headstone photo for a Cambridge researcher at the Le Quesnoy cemetery, and another at Romenies cemetery.
I also photographed a Cambridge soldier’s headstone John Allan Hicks, at the nearby Vertignuel Churchyard.
Anzac Day at Le Quesnoy was commemorated on Sunday 23 April and Waipa Mayor Alan Livingston laid the wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial where New Zealanders scaled their wall.
Then another wreath at the Le Quesnoy cenotaph and more speeches and more food.
Monday we started the ‘Tag Along Tour’ visiting the Battle of Waterloo site. Later in the afternoon we visited Tyne Cot Memorial at Passchendaele.
In the evening we were at (Ypres) Ieper and the Menin Gate 8pm Last Post ceremony for Mayor Alan to lay a poppy wreath.
The next day was 25 April and Alan laid a wreath at La Ville de Messines cenotaph and another at the Messines New Zealand Memorial.
Then in the afternoon he laid the Anzac wreath at Menin Gate for New Zealand. We were very proud – there was not a dry eye in our group.