In 2016, my younger son and I visited the battlefields of the Western Front. From the Sunken Lane to Theipval, we were overwhelmed by the scale of loss. At one point he just stopped and stood in front of one young man's grave and talked to him for five minutes. I don't know what they talked about. The poppies blooming added to the poignancy of the tour.
October 2017 brought the opportunity to walk 100km of the Western Front. Walking is the perfect way to experience the scale of the frontline. It is slow enough to allow contemplation as each bend in the road brings another cemetery into view. It allows the scale to sweep over you. It gives you space to feel.
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Full moon setting as dawn tinged the sky over La Targette (Nécropole Nationale La Targette), one of five French military cemeteries. Truly beautiful in its setting and chilling in its scale.
Sunrise over the Somme
The light shining through the stained glass in the chapel at Notre Dame de Lorette, the world’s largest French military cemetery. The red reminded me of a poppy. Also known as Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery
The sadness at Theipval is palpable as you stand surrounded by the names of the missing men, looking out at the beautiful French countryside. The scale of loss is overwhelming.
Names of the missing behind an iron grill, Neuville-Saint-Vaast The largest German cemetery in France, containing 44,833 burials.
The Pozières British Cemetery and Pozières Memorial to the Missing
Poppies blooming on the hill near the Ulster Memorial
In the blue hour, just before dawn, we walked under the light of the full moon through the German Cemetery of Neuville-Saint-Vaast with its stark iron crosses.