BURIAL AT WYTSCHAETE

This article is about the burial today of the remains of 13 British and Commonwealth soldiers from the First World War whose remains were found in Flanders’ fields at Wytschaete near Ieper. We will remember them.

The article is published in The Guardian newspaper.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/10/first-world-wars-pompeii-burial-for-british-soldiers-found-in-flemish-field

ROYAL MUNSTER FUSILIERS

Royal Munster Fusiliers Memorial Ieper

Behind St Martin’s Cathedral in Ieper there is a Celtic cross that forms a memorial for the Royal Munster Fusiliers soldiers who died in World War One.

Royal Munster Fusiliers Memorial Ieper

A tricolour flies from a flagpole alongside the monument to mark its connection with Ireland and Co. Cork in particular. The plaque contains the coat of arms for Munster (the three antique crowns of the medieval lordships).

The symbol of Munster engraved on the memorial in Ieper

It reads: “In memory of those men of Munster who died fighting for freedom. A tribute erected by the people of the province and Cork its capital city.”

A tribute from Cork and Munster

There is also a similar inscription in Irish and one in French, where two wreaths had been laid.

Inscription in French

The Irish version of the English inscription reads as follows:

Irish inscription, Royal Munster Fusiliers Memorial

ST MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL

St Martin’s Cathedral, Ieper

St Martin’s Cathedral (Flemish: Sint-Maartenskathedraal), also called St Martin’s Church (Sint-Maartenskerk), is a church and former cathedral in the city of Ypres. It was a cathedral and the seat of the former diocese of Ypres from 1561 to 1801, and is still commonly referred to as such. It is among the tallest buildings in Belgium at 102m (335ft) tall.

Corner of Square leading to the Cloth Hall, Ieper

Construction started on the church in 1230, and was finished in 1370. There had previously been a Romanesque church in the area, dating from the 10th or 11th century.

Side of Cathedral

After the 1801 Concordat between Napoléon and Pope Pius VII, Ypres was incorporated into the diocese of Ghent and Saint Martin’s lost its status as a cathedral. As with many former cathedrals (pro-Cathedrals), it is often still referred to as a cathedral by locals.

Main entrance to St Martin’s Cathedral, Ieper

It suffered heavy damage during the Great War. Subsequently (1922–1930) the ruin was cleared and the church was entirely rebuilt following the original plans, although the tower was built with a higher spire than the original.

St Martin’s Cathedral

Cornelius Jansen, the father of the theological movement Jansenism, was Bishop of Ypres from 1635 to 1638. He is buried in the cathedral. Count Robert III of Flanders, popularly known as The Lion of Flanders, is also buried there.

St Martin’s Cathedral, Ieper

Because a funeral Mass was about to start and the bell was tolling as we arrived at the church, it was not officially open for visits. But joining a short queue at the main entrance and going into the Cathedral we paid our respects to the deceased whose remains were resting in a coffin at the back of the church, then remained standing at the doors to say a few prayers whilst taking in the vast interior. This seems to be a local custom. The mourners and undertaker must have wondered who we were gatecrashing a funeral….!

ST GEORGE’S: IRISH LINKS

Campbell College plaque

Seat covers with badges of different Regiments including Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Window with Campbell College plaque alongside

Memorial window North Irish Horse

Memorial window with regimental badges

Wreath for Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Memorial window Capt Thomas O’Donel MC from Newport Co. Mayo

FLANDERS DAY FIVE

Ieper Cloth Hall

Day five, the final day of our visit to Flanders. After an exhausting fourth day that turned out to be a record heatwave, we started exploring some places near the centre of Ieper where we were staying.

Ieper St George’s Church

St George’s Church which I will cover in a separate article is a Church of England (Anglican) place of worship. It contains several interesting memorials, some with Irish connections.

St George’s Church, Ieper (Ypres)

Close to St Martin’s Catholic Church (former Cathedral) where there was once a monastery, there was a building site where the façade was being carefully preserved. Large steel girders propped up the beautiful brickwork. It made me think of how the shell of Castleblayney Market House was being treated. In Belgium much more attention seemed to be given to preserving the old alongside the new.

Ieper building site

At the rear of the Cathedral, where a funeral Mass was being held, we came across a Celtic cross with a tricolour flying. This is a memorial for the Royal Munster Fusiliers (more later).

Memorial for the Royal Munster Fusiliers in Ieper

We moved on to the village of Poperinge where the TOC-H house is situated.

Poperinge

Our final stop on the way back to Brussels Airport at Zaventem was in Ghent. Unfortunately we did not have time to stop at the site of the Battle of Waterloo (Westerlo) as planned. But it is a site I have visited before.

Canal at Ghent

WREATH LAYING, IEPER

Wreath laying by Michael Fisher at Last Post ceremony in Ieper

The highlight of our five day visit to Flanders was to attend the daily Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate memorial in Ieper. Buglers from the local fire brigade sound the Last Post at 8pm. It’s a tradition that was started after the end of WWI in July 1928.

Charles Wills placed a wreath in memory of soldiers from Co. Mayo

One wreath was laid by Charles Wills from Foxford in memory of Irish soldiers in the British Army who were from Co. Mayo.

Laurel wreath in memory of those soldiers from Ireland who died in WWI

I laid a laurel wreath with a tricolour ribbon attached in memory of all those soldiers from the island of Ireland who died in the 1914-18 conflict.

Waiting to lay the wreath

Along with Charles we waited in line behind some former British soldiers and a group from the Orange Order in Scotland for our turn to lay the wreaths at the memorial.

Laying a wreath in memory of those soldiers from Co. Mayo killed in WWI

The wreaths laid at the Last Post ceremony

Placing a wreath at the Menin Gate memorial

Our group at the Menin Gate following the ceremony

It was a fitting end to a very busy day visiting some of the CWGC cemeteries in Flanders around Ieper. We will remember them.