I was in western Belgium in August 2014. What I saw and learnt about the First World War while I was there has stayed with me.
I was in Belgium because I was playing at the Dranouter Festival with Wilful Missing. The rolling green landscape that surrounded the festival site was a very pleasant setting indeed. However, I kept thinking back 100 years to the war that was about to begin, and that would turn fields like these into appalling battlefields.
The day after we played at the festival we had a trip into Ypres. That was a day I will never forget. The festival staff were kind enough to give us a driver called Patriek, who turned out to be a thoroughly nice chap. On the way to Ypres we stopped at two Commonwealth cemeteries. There are over 100 of these cemeteries in the area. The first cemetery we visited, Locre No. 10, had the following inscription at the entrance:
The land on which this cemetery stands is the free gift of the Belgian people for the perpetual resting place of those of the Allied armies who fell in the war of 1914-1918 and are honoured here.
Not everyone buried in cemeteries such as Locre No. 10 had been successfully identified, such as the “five soldiers of the Great War” buried beneath the gravestone in this photo: