Branch Standard on parade at the Menin Gate, Ypres, 11th September 2010
On Friday 10th September 2010, Jimmy Rowe, Branch Standard Bearer together his wife Pat, Branch Chairman Rodney Curtis and Kate, his wife, were invited to join the Wells branch of the Royal British Legion at Ypres and its surroundings to remember Harry Patch (the “Last Tommy”) who died last year. The Wells Branch set up a fund to pay for young people to visit the area in which Harry fought and, to publicise this, a team from BBC Points West accompanied their coach.
The branch party arrived on the Friday evening after travelling all day. The next day they travelled to Tyne Cot, which is the largest British and Commonwealth Military Cemetery in the world. Here, Rodney laid a wreath on behalf of the branch during a short ceremony led by Robin White of the Wells Branch.
Next, the party visited a German cemetery and participated in another act of remembrance. This cemetery was very sombre indeed. After this, they went to the place where Harry was wounded, so ending the war for him. He lost three of his friends in the same explosion, known as Jack, Gill and Maude. Unfortunately, we do not know the real names of these men.
After this, the party went to Hooge Crater. The cemetery here was very sadly memorable, as many of the gravestones were touching each other, indicating that the remains could not be separated. In the evening, Rodney, Jimmy (as Standard bearers) and Pat marched with the bands from the main square of Ypres to the Menin Gate for the ceremony which has taken place EVERY evening since 1922. The three bands played and the ceremony was led by Robin White. Many wreaths were laid.
On the final day, the party travelled to Talbot House in Poperinge. This is the original Toc H which was opened in 1915 in order to give the men on leave from the front a taste of home. From there, the party marched with the standards and the Avon Glen Pipe and Drum Band to the Belgian Memorial, where Robin was on duty again. The party then returned to Talbot House for a cup of tea, before starting on their return trip to Brittany. Contributed by Kate Curtis