Paul from Summerland
“The general impression in my mind is of a nightmare. We have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally”. This is how, in 1915, Canadian Major John McCrae described the Second Battle of Ypres in a letter to his mother.
In Flanders Fields

It was here, at what is today known as Essex Farm Cemetery and Advanced Dressing Station, that John McCrae wrote his famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.

Paul from Summerland in British Columbia, Canada stands on the spoil bank of the Ypres-Yser canal bank and looks towards the graves of Essex Farm Cemetery. He has travelled a long way to pay his respects to his fellow countrymen. A visit to the John McCrae site is something that “you just have to do and see as a Canadian,” he says smilingly. 

Paul has travelled to Flanders Fields with a particular mission: He follows in the footsteps of the men of the Second Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion. As a former Army man himself, he feels a special link to the soldiers who, 100 years ago, fought for his country so far from home. Especially because the regiment Paul served with before his retirement, perpetuated the Second Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion.

Nearly 800 soldiers of the Rifles Battalion fought on the Western Front during the Great War and Paul tries to visit as many graves as possible to honour the men that “are technically my soldiers,” as he puts it proudly. He has already discovered several panels on the Menin Gate in Ypres with names of Mounted Rifles Battalion members, and is searching for more graves and memorials of his regiment throughout the region.

“The cemeteries are very moving but there are also many good museums, like the In Flanders Fields Museum, that explains the story of the war in a balanced and insightful way. You can find many great booklets and leaflets that help you find your way around and guide you through the area,” Paul explains.

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