25 October 2018
The cadets woke up early this morning on their final day of the tour. Bedrooms cleared and kit packed away the cadets enjoyed their breakfast and made their lunch, ready to get onto the coach.
The first stop today was to a village called Poperinge where a memorial has been put in place for the soldiers who were sadly executed by shooting, better known as Shot at Dawn. The cadets learnt about the reason they may have been shot of whom more than 3000 soldiers were sentenced to death by firing squad although only 346 executions were actually carried out. Here at Talbot House, Poperinge, formally used as a Soldiers Club for the British Army just behind the trenches around Ypres, the cadets visited the site where 25 British soldiers were executed. They could see the original wall the soldiers were stood against before the execution.
After laying a poppy cross to commemorate those who lost their lives there, the cadets had chance to explore the Death Cells where soldiers were held prior to execution. Inside the cells is graffiti from the soldiers held there. In 2006 The Armed Forces Act pardoned the deaths of the soldiers stating that 'execution was not a fate he deserved'.
The second part of the visit to Poperinge was to the main square where it was explained to the cadets how the soldiers spent their “down-time” away from the front lines. They were told about the various bars that were available to the soldiers and how the different ranks were segregated into different “messes”/drinking houses. The cadets were given the scene of a bustling village full of solders relaxing. In the square there is a statue dedicate to 'Ginger' Eliane Cossey; she reminded the soldiers there of the human dignity and life that they carried into the hell of the trenches. She was nicknamed “Ginger” because of her bright red hair and her cheerful personality.
The next stop was a visit to was Essex Farm Cemetery and Dressing Station still within the Flanders Field area. Essex Farm was an advanced dressing station or basic medical station inside a bunker. The 96th Field Ambulance ran the station where casualties were evacuated to the station to get urgent medical attention that they needed. Essex Farm Cemetery holds 1,200 servicemen, including the youngest British soldier who died at the age of 15. In this cemetery, there are a number of graves together. These are of men who fought in the same battalion and who died on the same day together. It’s at this site that John McCrae an Canadian army doctor was inspired to write the poem In Flanders Fields. This is now one of the most famous poems to come out of World War 1.
Our final visit before returning home was back into Ypres and visiting the Menin Gate during the daytime. The cadets had chance to see where the missing soldiers of the Cambridgeshire regiment are listed. The Menin Gate is a memorial to all those British and Commonwealth solders who are missing. There are 40,244 British names on the gate. In total there are 54,866 names calved into the stone. Here the Kilgallen cadets lay two poppy crosses for a family member who is commemorated on the wall.
Once the cadets had finished looking at the Menin Gate they were given some free time to explore the town and enjoy a bit of shopping. Most of them found the chocolate shop on the main square. Afterwards everyone arrived back on the coach and headed back to England.
The cadets had a fantastic time and they really enjoyed their experience. They are a credit to Cambridgeshire Army Cadet Force and their behaviour on the tour was superb.
“Cambridgeshire Regiment artwork used with kind permission of www.cambridgeshireregiment1914-18.co.uk”