As a military-style organisation we have a lot of empathy with the armed services and an interest in military history. Recently four staff from 2425 Squadron visited Belgium to plan a potential future visit by the cadets and toured various important war sites and memorials.
They are Flt Lt Frost, Pilot Officer McLoughlin, Pilot Officer Whitaker and CI Rawsthorne.
They started in Niewport where the Belgians flooded 22 miles of their own country in WWI to halt enemy progress. This was followed by a visit to the Ijzer Tower memorial to Belgian soldiers. After arriving at their accommodation in Ypres, they attended the famous Menin Gate Last Post memorial, which has been held at 8pm every night since 1928. The following day was another busy one with visits to the ramparts at Ypres, then Essex Farm Cemetery and Hooge Crater museum at the site of a crater caused by intense shelling and a huge mine explosion. Sanctuary Wood museum (Hill 62) and the Saint Julien Memorial were the final destinations of the day.
The final day included visits to Hill 60, which inspired the novel Birdsong, Langermark German Cemetery, notable for its stark grey gravestones and a place where over 44,000 German soldiers are buried. Next was the Tyne Cot British Cemetery containing nearly 35,000 casualties. Then they visited Ploegsteert (known as “Plug Street”) which is the site of the famous temporary truce at Christmas during which opposing soldiers played a Football match. The final two stops were Bedford House Cemetery and the grave of Noel Chavasse, British Army Officer who was the only man to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice during the First World War.
Flt Lt Frost said “It is very important that we visit these memorials in peacetime to pay our respects to the heroes and remember the horrors of past wars.”