Ypres Salient 2021 Day Four: Into the Storm

Today was so not the weather for battlefield-ing. It was cold, wet, and blowing a gale. As a result today's plans were mostly centred around staying out of the weather as much as possible.

After a relatively slow start I drove over the the Passchendaele Memorial Museum in Zonnebeke. I've been a few times before but it's by far my favourite of the museums in the Salient and has a huge display about both the war generally and the Third Battle of Ypres. There's also a very good audioguide, which, despite having heard a few times before is still very interesting.


One thing I did note was that in a couple of the cases there were some additional documents about the YMCA. In the New Zealand displays there was the "Buckshee" book of the NZYMCA's work in the war, which I have previously read when it was in the neighbouring research centre. 

After the indoor exhibits the visitors' route at the museum leads you outside into a trench reconstruction, that was grim in the terrible weather. I was very grateful to scurry through and back indoors - and that was without having to contend with any mud! It was definitely a reminder of how grim trench life in the Winter must have been for the soldiers. 

As I was in the area I drove up to Tyne Cot Cemetery. Here, the weather was even worse and I had to battle the strong wind and sideways rain just to get across from the car park. I think it might have been the first time that I've been the only person here - not that I wanted to linger long myself.

At the memorial wall I went to search for the name of Captain John Leslie Derrick, who had studied maths and history at Pembroke College, Oxford. He was also from Gloucestershire, as I am, and was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School before he went up to Oxford. His army service started at the beginning of the First World War when he was commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers, who he then served with in Egypt. In October 1916 he transferred to the 6th Yorkshires at Beaumetz, who he served with until his death during the Third Battle of Ypres on 27th August 1917.

After Tyne Cot I had to head back to Poperinghe in time for a covid test, but I stopped briefly on the way at the New Zealand memorial. I remember coming here on a long walk a couple of years ago on a surprisingly hot March day, which felt a world away from today. In the mizzly rain it was difficult to see very far down the hill at all.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon meeting with Jan, the archivist of Talbot House. It was fascinating! He showed me around the archive and talked through everything they have about the House's history, some of which has been here since the First World War and much of which they have collected in the decades since. There were lots of pieces of information that are going to be really useful for my research and it was great to be able to go through it all with someone as well versed as Jan who has spent decades researching Talbot House. 

Until tomorrow, when hopefully the weather will be looking cheerier!

Kathryn

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