There will be some people that have never heard of Ypres, this small Belgian town, nestled close up to the French border.
For an overwhelming number of British, French, German and Commonwealth soldiers however, the name of Wipers will live forever.
The loss of a generation will remain in history as one of the bloodiest periods of humanity. There have been more murderous people before, there have been bigger battles since, but for the sheer waste of life, there has never been anything worse than the constant, attritional, senseless slaughter that took place in and around the Ypres salient during WW1.
As testament to that, it is difficult to drive more than a few kilometres in any direction without stumbling on a military cemetery.
They strew the countryside for many miles around, some less than 20 bodies, others containing thousands and the names of thousands more.
A town obliterated during The Great War has since rebuilt itself, the Old Town being faithfully reproduced as it was before the German invasion and subsequent fighting.
The two things I love most about Ypres are:
1: Given the amount of tourists who come here, to visit graveyards, to remember and to pay their respects to the fallen there are almost no souvenir shops, no tackiness to somehow tawdry the sacrifice given a century ago.
2: The Last Post. Every evening since 1928 (apart from a short period when Ypres was under German occupation during WW2) a bugler, either alone or a small group, plays the single piece of music guaranteed to cause my eyes to leak. Come rain, snow, sun or wind the bugler marches to the Menin Gate and plays The Last Post. Its a solemn ceremony, there is no applause and yet even now, a century after the fighting, every night there are a large crowd of people, come from the world over, to pay their respects.
It is a place I love to visit, the museum is superb, it recounts the war as it happened, without in any way glorifying it and it maintains a dignity rarely found in such places.
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