A forgotten front of the Great War (6): Lest we forget

In a series of 6 blogs Wim Chielens discusses the ‘forgotten front’ of Ploegsteert (Belgium) and Fromelles (France) with photos by Michaël Depestele. This is the sixth and final part: Lest we forget.

It’s dusk when I pass V.C. Corner again on my way another half kilometre to the south. The Leie River, a modest canal, forms a border between Fromelles and Fleurbaix, between Nord and Pas-de-Calais. A little further, on a small British military cemetery looms on the horizon: Trou Aid Post. From a distance it looks idyllic, flanked by magnificent weeping willows, the walled in stretch of grass rising above the surrounding fields. It looks like an old motte or mound. As soon as I enter the area, I find myself among dozens of unknown Australian graves once again. I already know their story. On the other side, a hundred graves, with names. At last they have names, but my next observation is disconcerting. I read the same date more than fifty times: 9th May 1915. Hastily turning to the register, I read: the Battle of Aubers Ridge, 11,000 lost in a couple of days, a fiasco. I don’t need details, maps, figures; I only note that Fromelles, two kilometres from here, was an improbable replay of an equally useless campaign here the previous year.

You don’t want to know this, you don’t want to believe it, you want to forget it. The forgotten front. It’s good that we now have the visitor centre in Ploegsteert and the museum in Fromelles. “Lest we forget,” as the saying goes. Anyone who has visited will not forget, will not be able to get it out of his head, this bloodthirsty occupational therapy. This spot inscribes the absurdity of the bloodshed into your memory.

Photo: Fleurbaix – Le Trou Aid Post Cemetery  © Michaël Depestele

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