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The Color of Memory : Black and White Day Tour of WWI Cemeteries in Belgium

Updated on January 22, 2014
Source
Photo of area map south of Iepers
Photo of area map south of Iepers | Source

On the trail of yesterday

When one says “Belgium”, a few things tend to come to mind for people: chocolate, waffles, beer, fries, mussels (note: the best way to understanding Belgian culture is via one’s stomach ;-) ), complicated linguistics, lovely, soft-spoken architecture, rain (alas, it’s a fact)...and that’s just a quick list. Not bad for a country the size of New Jersey or Wales!

But there’s more to Belgium, particularly its past. However, not all of that past is particularly merry. For one thing – over the past two centuries – Belgium (including before there was a “Belgium” in the modern sense) has been invaded no fewer than three times and each of those invasions changed the country permanently, leaving reminders that one can see to this day. The second of the three invasions was due to the First World War.

Today, reminders of the Great War are scattered throughout the countryside surrounding the town of Iepers in West Flanders as well as in the town itself (there are over 130 military cemeteries in the area) where various armies stayed entrenched for the length of the war. The various memorials and cemeteries are maintained by the countries for whose dead they were constructed and each one leaves the visitor with a different feeling and a different message. It’s an excellent reminder of how public memory of the past is influenced by the present (or nearer past) and is anything but singular in nature.

Of course, such things are always open to individual interpretation…come see for yourself :-)

Rear of headstone detail, Flanders Field American Cemetery, Waregem (Belgium)
Rear of headstone detail, Flanders Field American Cemetery, Waregem (Belgium) | Source
Nearly a century later, it is more than a field of stone; Flanders Field American Cemetery, Waregem (Belgium)
Nearly a century later, it is more than a field of stone; Flanders Field American Cemetery, Waregem (Belgium) | Source
Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesen (Belgium)
Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesen (Belgium) | Source
Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesen (Belgium)
Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesen (Belgium) | Source
Perhaps the most common inscription to be found; Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesen (Belgium)
Perhaps the most common inscription to be found; Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesen (Belgium) | Source
Island of Ireland Peace Park, Mesen (Belgium)
Island of Ireland Peace Park, Mesen (Belgium) | Source
A field which saw its share of suffering; view from Island of Ireland Peace Park, Mesen (Belgium)
A field which saw its share of suffering; view from Island of Ireland Peace Park, Mesen (Belgium) | Source
Amongst the memories, no glory to be found here; Island of Ireland Peace Park, Mesen (Belgium)
Amongst the memories, no glory to be found here; Island of Ireland Peace Park, Mesen (Belgium) | Source
Yorkshire Trench and Dugout, Boezinge (Belgium)
Yorkshire Trench and Dugout, Boezinge (Belgium) | Source
Yorkshire Trench and Dugout, Boezinge (Belgium)
Yorkshire Trench and Dugout, Boezinge (Belgium) | Source
Caesar's Nose Welsh Cemetery, Boezinge (Belgium)
Caesar's Nose Welsh Cemetery, Boezinge (Belgium) | Source
Simply black; Langemark German Military Cemetery, Langemark (Belgium)
Simply black; Langemark German Military Cemetery, Langemark (Belgium) | Source
Name upon name upon name; Langemark German Military Cemetery, Langemark (Belgium)
Name upon name upon name; Langemark German Military Cemetery, Langemark (Belgium) | Source
Never alone, never forgotten; Langemark German Military Cemetery, Langemark (Belgium)
Never alone, never forgotten; Langemark German Military Cemetery, Langemark (Belgium)

Where to find WWI memorials in Belgium

show route and directions
A markeriepers, belgium -
Ieper, Belgium
get directions

B markerdiksmuide, belgium -
Diksmuide, Belgium
get directions

C markerwaregem, belgium -
Waregem, Belgium
get directions

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    • LEWMaxwell profile image

      Leslie Schock 5 years ago from Tulsa, Oklahoma

      The pictures are really powerful and speak volumes in and of themselves. Thank you.

    • Darrylmdavis profile image
      Author

      Darrylmdavis 5 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

      Thanks. The Jewish headstone was my single favourite, too :-)

    • profile image

      anne-christel 5 years ago

      favorite shots are definitely the Jewish US stone and the view of the trenchs

    • Darrylmdavis profile image
      Author

      Darrylmdavis 5 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

      Thanks for sharing Mhatter. Appreciate it.

    • Darrylmdavis profile image
      Author

      Darrylmdavis 5 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

      Thanks Valleypoet. I think one of the more incredible moments of that day was when I was in Flanders Field and saw a grave with not only fresh flowers but (clearly maintained) family photos from the time. Nearly a century later! That was very powerful!!

    • Darrylmdavis profile image
      Author

      Darrylmdavis 5 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

      Thanks for visiting, Ahorseback

    • Darrylmdavis profile image
      Author

      Darrylmdavis 5 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

      Thanks for stopping by. Indeed, the place is chilling to say the least. As it should be.

    • coffeegginmyrice profile image

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Great y0u've shared this. It's great to know Belgium's memorial grounds of the fallen soldiers of WWI, but at the same time, it made a lump in my heart of the messages on the gravestones esp. "KNOWN UNTO GOD", as well as your captions on the pictures. Wonderful read on history! Thanks Darrylmdavis.

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 5 years ago

      Great history lesson , fortunately for most ,we are able to learn by reading rather that being on the battlefield. Perhaps the most tragic of wars WWI - WWII ,where a soldier died in a field only to be burried right there ! and at home , only a telegram to say sorry ! Your son is MIA.........thanks for this lesson .

    • profile image

      Valleypoet 5 years ago

      Makes you feel very sad to see so many graves without names on them. My great uncle lost his life in the great war..at just 18 years old, I felt very moved to have seen the grave which is in France...an opportunity lost to many. Thanks for raising awareness Darryl with some more great photos:-))

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Awesome, thank you. So much so I shared this

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