Hayley is a Ghost

Have you stood in the trenches of WW1?

Posted on: November 13, 2010

I have.

There’s this museum in Belgium, near the town of Ypres, Flanders that still has trenches from WW1 in its grounds. You can go for a walk in them and  I have done so twice in my life. They are grim; Wet, sloppy, deep, claustrophobic, dark, dirty and smelly and that’s all these decades after the war.

I hate to imagine what they would have been like during the war.

I’ve been to Flanders a lot. My dad is a tour organiser and used to do multiple trips there a year as his customers loved the place. Mostly because of the beauty and the way in which the little town remembers the war dead of years gone by. Also for the chocolate.

There is something about the Flanders area that makes it seem as though it is in another time. A time that has stopped and is waiting.

The Menin gate stands tall with its walls covered in the names of those who were lost and never found. I cannot put into words how many names there are there. The first time I stood under the Menin gate I looked up at the walls and I felt a huge sense of loss. All of those people never made it home.

Only, there isn’t enough room on the Menin gate and more names of those ‘lost in action’ can be found at the various war cemeteries in the area such as Tyne Cote. Also Langemarck – the cemetery where German soldiers are buried. It stands out in my mind even today how eerie Langemarck is. See, the gravestones are all black and led down on the floor in stark contract to the upright, white headstones in the allied cemeteries.

These four figures stand at the edge of the cemetery, forever paying their last respects to their fallen countrymen before they head home, leaving them far behind.

Also, at Langemarck there are thousands of names of those who were ‘missing in action’ from the German side.

Flanders will stay with me for life and I am in no doubt that I will return time and time again to stand in silence as the last post is played at the Menin Gate every single day. There are reminders everywhere about what happened during WW1 and the losses.

Walking through the trenches the troops would have spent so much time in, counting the number of ‘Stevens’ listed on the Menin gate and the way that the residents find bombs in their gardens so often that they have specially designed lamp posts are things that will always stand out in my mind. There is nothing like driving down a road in Flanders and counting the dozens of unexploded devices that have been slotted into the holes in the lamp posts ready for the weekly collection by the bomb disposal squad. It’s mad.

Today, I have family in Afghanistan and I have family who fought in Ireland and The Falklands. I have stood at the graveside of the youngest person killed in Belgium during WW1 and at the time I was his very age, just turned fifteen. His grave is very close to the spot that Lieutenant John McCrae wrote the very poignant poem ‘Flanders Fields’ and poppies really do blow in Flanders Fields.

Tomorrow I shall fall silent for two minutes as a sign of respect because you can never forget the silence that hangs over the graves in Flanders. It stays with you.

Lest we forget.


8 Responses to "Have you stood in the trenches of WW1?"

Remembering the veterans and what they went through is hugely important for us. I have relatives who went through Normandy and Guadalcanal and fortunately all lived to tell us tales later. I have coworkers who got called up and sent to Iraq and others who’s children have gone. For whatever reason for the war, reflecting on what the warriors went through needs to be commonly part of our social commentary. This was very much part of that. Thanks for this Hayley.

My maternal grandfather was gased in the trenches during WWI.

I didn’t have the privelege of knowing him, because he died in thre month I was conceived.

He was a brave man; mentioned in Dispatches to the King, decorated.

My late father-in-law was trapped in Burma, long after the war in Europe ended.

He had to fight his way out, and never spoke of his true experiences there.

They are the heros and I wear a poppy with pride every year, in memory of those men.

Just on the side, the whole area is called Flanders – there is no town with that name. The place you mean is Ieper, or Ypres in French.

*edited* oops. I knew that, I just guess it didn’t cross my mind to clarify. Thanks.

One of my trips whilst in Secondary school was to Ypres.

It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on. Most thought it was just an excuse to load up on cheap chocolate and get out of the classroom for a few days.

But after visiting one of the many international grave sites and seeing row after row of crosses coupled with hearing the The Last Post ceremony being delivered at Menin Gate had even the most disruptive pupils standing in silence and respect.

It was a real eye opener for everyone who went and we all came home with a new found respect for all our armed forces, past, present and future.

Some things you just cant begin to appreciate from reading a book in a classroom, writing an essay or looking on the internet. This is a prefect example

You summed it up well, Gareth. Thanks for commenting 🙂

Your fine post made me think of two things:

I attended undergrad in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where a quite horrific three day battle during the American Civil War occurred. There are monuments scattered all over the rather well preserved field. The National Cemetery is sad for all the unmarked graves. Nearly every building standing after the battle acted as a crude hospital for months after the armies had left. I could never fathom actually charging into enemy fire, or repelling an attack. It is awe inspiring and frightening at the same time. I am glad I have never had to be so tested.

What was more unnerving was when I visited a preserved NVA tunnel complex near Ho Chi Minh City when my dad (a Vet of the War) and I visited Vietnam a decade ago. The tunnels were tight graves ready to go. The dastardly contraptions and boobie-traps were terrible. What terrible things men are willing to endure will never cease to astonish me.

Sorry for the ramble

Hiya – I was just doing a bit of a google and came across this post. I went to Flanders and the Somme with my dad in the Spring. It had a massive impact on me – all a bit overwelming. Anyway I wrote about it on my blog on 11th Nov. I thought you might find it interesting to read about my trip and experiences.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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