AUTUMN NEWSLETTER 2018.
ROBIN MOORE’S CHARITY WALK AND HARVEST AUCTIONS – SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018.
This year’s Cornish Pilgrimage has so far raised around £1000 for Cornwall Hospice Care and we have two auction events supporting Robin Moore’s latest walk for the charity (followed by an official presentation ceremony at St Julia’s Hospice, Hayle). Most of the funds for this event will be raised locally at auctions arranged by Robin and his friends/supporters; the first of which will take place at St Day Inn, Fore Street, St Day from 7pm on Saturday 6th October. The auction will begin at 7.30pm and will be followed by the Cornish Choir around 9pm who will entertain us thereafter.
The second auction will take place at The Fox & Hounds, Comford on Saturday 27th October around 7pm. Entertainment from the Falmouth Sea Shanty Group will follow the auction.
Posters and news reports about the events for CHC are now being processed throughout the community and there will be further opportunities to support the Robin Moore’s walk for he charity which has also delved into the history of The Great War. Donations and auction prizes will be welcomed at each pub.
Robin’s recent charity walk across Europe’s WW1 Battlefields was the last in a series to commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War which will now enable him to complete a trilogy of books about his experience. The project entitled ‘A Pilgrimage of War and Words’, shows insight into battles fought in Belgium and France covered on several walks in the region; the three books are also illustrated with photos and verse written by the author himself. Please read an account of his recent journey below.
POEM- ‘The Dead are young in Flanders’
‘Thank God the war is over, but what of them,
The young, the brave, those fallen men,
Who died in battle to make us safe,
And build a better world united in faith.
They’ll remain young – encapsulated in time,
Cut down were the millions, all in their prime,
Epitaphs remind us of the war dead long gone,
In the cemeteries of Flanders where their names live on.
Each white tablet evokes eternal grace,
A reminder of conflict in this timeless place,
On every battlefield where men fought and bled,
Lies a peaceful garden that harbours the dead
Day 1 Ostend to Diksmuide
Having negotiated the Cornish Riviera to London, the Euro Express to Brussels and a further train to Ostend I begin my tour along the seafront to the end of the city boundaries. Heading inland I pick up the cycle route to Gistel formed from the N33. The journey runs smoothly along part of the ‘Poppy Trail’ interacting with many small villages. The weather is humid and misty bringing about an early dusk as I plod on to Diksmuide where I have no luck finding accommodation. While contemplating a night under canvas the young receptionist at the Pak Hotel, my last hope, phones to book a room at the B&B Esenkasteelhoeve – just of the Ypres Road. I am now less than 20 km from Ypres having made far greater progress today than expected even though I did not set off until after 2pm due to the excess of travelling. Any way I find the correct turn put it is dark and I miss the signpost for the B&B thus walking the entire industrial estate for a further 2 hours! Eventually I get there at well beyond 11pm and I am fortunate that Monica, the proprietor is still awake. Better late than never and after a good scrub down I retire to my bed.
POEM OF THE DAY
A Sense of Duty
POEM – ‘A Pilgrimage Borne from War’
‘Summoned by the call to arms we proudly enlist,
We are the young liberators who care not of risk.
Compelled by a sense of duty to do what is right,
The War is our calling and God’s cause is our fight.
We fear not the harshness of a war unknown,
But then, it won’t last long and we can all go home.
It will be a chance to travel, adventure at its best,
We’ll be back by Christmas, victorious in our quest.
Buoyant with optimism our soldiers sail South,
To a tumultuous welcome in wait at Hell’s Mouth;
Where the closeness of conflict amid mud and barbed wire,
Sees ‘tommies’ dodging shrapnel from deafening shell fire.
The guns boom louder here, evoking fear across the land,
Reducing historic towns to mounds of brick and sand.
So onward to the field they go, into its world of eerie gloom,
This is no place for a young man who knew a better life at home.
Memories of fun are a far cry from here,
Where rats run rampant in trenches near.
‘Stark as it is, we stand stoic and true,
In our quest to free Europe which we aim to see through.’
Above the parapet, the jaws of hell open wider still,
In an oncoming storm that threatens life at will.
A fierce barrage rages throughout the night,
As we steel ourselves nervously for the imminent fight.
The dawn whistle blows and we go over the top,
To face bullet and barbed wire until we finally drop.
Amid darkness of ‘No Mans Land’, gun fire and gore,
Our destiny is sealed by a pilgrimage borne from war
Day 2 Diksmuide to Ypres
Blimey – What an episode that was last night! I had missed the turn off for the B&B and walked the entire Industrial Estate – I guess that’s par for the course for me – been there many times and the best of it was that, being an obscure set up they sent a lady out to pick me up and transport me there. The problem is I am a purist and will never accept lifts when on a walk unless it is a straight to and from the road to my accommodation – in order to keep the walk honest. So in fact I became a victim of my beliefs which I can at least live with and not be too disgruntled!
Once back at the N369 I was able to follow the cycle route to Ypres via the many villages that belong to this predominantly rural part of Belgium.
Stopping briefly I fix my feet which are by now blistered at the heel as well as the ball of my foot. Painfully I press on wondering why the journey is taking so long – actually it is only 1.30pm!
I conclude the last 6km on the cycle route by the River and canal, taking nice photos of the barges at the end of the line. Soon I am walking into Ypres and quickly locate my hotel before crossing the street to The Flander’s Fields Museum where I am happy to find that the Information Section have copies of all my WW1 Walks and ask if I would be kind enough to sign them! From here it’s off to the Menin Gate for the Last Post Ceremony and tomorrow I will be walking the famous battle fields associated with the Ypres Salient.
POEM OF THE DAY – The Fallen
‘For each fallen man a poppy will rise,
It pays tribute to his bravery and sad demise.
A life cut short by the folly of war,
In a battle for freedom that many died for.
They fought against oppression in a savage conflict,
Suffering 4 years of brutality that is hard to depict.
Each offensive cost thousands of lives,
Causing great loss to families, parents and wives.
It’s hard to imagine such slaughter of men,
Yet, keen they all were to fight back then;
For King and Country they pledged their all,
Not caring or knowing how many would fall.
Now the time has come to remember their plight,
Knowing they believed their cause to be right.
When they entered the field for the final time,
It was freedom they fought for and peace to mankind.’
Day 3 – Walking the Ypres Salient via Zonnebeke and Hill 62
Setting off on a muggy morning I pass through the Menin Gate, now a quitter scene that the previous evening, frequented by a few lonesome photographers as I make my way along the N332 towards Passchendaele. It is a quiet journey along a diminutive road with only the noise of the motorway below offering to disturb the peace. I make good progress despite stopping to photograph several burial sites along the way. By 11.30 I reach the Passchendaele Museum and deliver a copy of my book which records my journey along the battlefields from Switzerland to Mons and Ypres in 2014.. After stopping for coffee I make my way back to the town and locate the route to Hill 62 which is taken up along the N37.
Enjoying a pleasant breeze I walk several km until locating the byway which forms the Poppy Route and from here I continue to Hill 62. I pass by some interesting landmarks and a cemetery dedicated to the Liverpool Railway Workers who may possibly have Beeb drafted in as engineers. After crossing the Menin Road, I locate the turn off for both Hill 62 and Zillebeke, my route back to Ypres. Stopping briefly at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery I note how well kept the graves are and feel that at least those brave men are remembered here. Further on I enter a museum and walk the frontline trenches trying to imagine how one could ever survive the collective horrors of war. Initially it the place was called Sanctuary Wood as it offered comfort to those injured in the front line but by 1915 it had become the British Frontline heavily defended by the Canadians who ensured the Germans would not take Ypres. The war hinged largely on the bravery and heroics of these great men.
After my visit to the museum I backtrack to the cross-country footpath which will take me to Zillebeke.
The footpath leads me across farmland to a cycle route which then descends to Zillebeke; beyond here I make my journey along the waterside back to the Menin Road where I pass a camp site and walk the final steps to the Menin Gate where I will await the last post and this evenings service conducted by the Scots Guards.
POEM OF THE DAY
PASSCHENDAELE – The 3rd Battle of Ypres
The Theatre of War
POEM – ‘No Man’s Land’
‘Above the parapet lie shell holes and mud,
Where trees once grew tall above Spring fields in bud.
Tis’ now a theatre of war that evokes fear on command,
It’s where soldiers meet their maker in ‘No Man’s Land.
Only vermin prosper in this insidious quagmire,
Bloated rats invading dugouts, impervious to gunfire.
It’s where Assassins are born and death is the law,
It is a version of hell that both sides abhor.
When the big guns stand down the real fight begins,
As combatants from both sides are cleansed of their sins;
Sucked into purgatory by acts of insanity,
Eroding one’s soul through war’s pointless profanity.
Now only shell holes remain along a battered frontline,
Leaving soldiers neck high in water to bide their time;
As they wait nervously for battle in the pouring rain,
In this grim place called ‘No Man’s Land’ – The Reaper’s Domain
By Robin Moore
Day 4 Ypres to Lille
Today the Hotel O at Ypres is overrun by a British Choir who are here to visit the battlefields and perform in the evening ceremony at the Menin Gate. Feeling glad to be away from the furore I head off up the Main Street eventually locating the N336 to Lille. Stopping briefly at Bedford House Cemetery I take photos and later locate 2 more burial sites; this part of Flanders remained under siege for most of the war and Lille itself succumbed early on in 1914 and remained in German occupation until October 1918. In the beginning all the BEF could spare were cavalry divisions and veterans from the Boar War; but these were to be the last days of the War Horse and poor “Dobin” was no match for ‘Big Birther’ and rapid fire machine guns which constantly spanned the Forests and open ground which soon became reduced to ‘No Man’s Land’.
Today’s journey along a narrow road is blighted by farm machinery and lorries though the cycle lane kicks in near the border. I stop for coffee by the river; then cross into France to continue towards the vibrant city of Lille.
Reaching the Armeotieres Junction I turn left onto a cycle route indicating another 15 km to Lille and after a further 5km I stop at another cafe. The sun is hot and I need a drink of water too; from here I continue through the small town at a slower pace taking in the change of environment which appears more modern compared to the stone built villages of Flanders.
Leaving on a cycle route I follow the river bank towards the city admiring the huge industrial barges that ply these waters. Quietly the afternoon passes and by 4pm I am walking the thoroughfare amid a lively atmosphere. By chance I stumble across the hotel I last stayed at here back in 2012. Although there were no vacancies the maid phoned through to the next place en route to ensure I had a room for the night. Feeling immensely grateful for that I promptly went for a beer; all waiter service here at £5 per litre; at this moment in time I barely flinched! Shops are scarce too, but all I need is an early night and good breakfast tomorrow. Good night all and have a good weekend!
POEM OF THE DAY
A New Age Of War
POEM – ‘No Place for a War Horse’
‘The war horse once prolific in battles fought,
Served the Realm in Africa, Crimea and Agincourt.
But Flanders Fields present a new and dangerous game,
Because here big guns reign supreme over treacherous terrain.
The artillery range exceeds twenty miles,
Reducing cities and towns to rubble piles,
Infantry and cavalry have no place to hide,
The army is washed away by a deleterious tide.
Poised for retreat the BEF take flight,
Only then are the cavalry summoned to fight,
In a previous age they’d have conquered all,
But sadly this time they ride only to fall.
Oh for those days of shock and awe,
When men on four legs were the elite in war.
Now we are cannon fodder in a modern age,
Victims of technology and advanced fusillade.
Sent out to die is our final command,
To perish in the mud of ‘no man’s land’
Charge machine gun nests on fortified ground,
Where tangled wire and shrapnel fire abound.
Not for the faint hearted is our cavalry division,
Thrust into a conflict with inadequate provision,
We’re used to a short, sharp response to warfare,
Instead we get trenches to hide from despair.
The days of the warhorse are nearing an end,
His cards are marked and his time is spent,
He now pulls cannon guns and ration packs too,
A workhorse rather than the great warrior we knew.
Replaced by technology in an Industrial war,
The war horse looks on at the new army corps,
Tanks and howitsers are now perpetrators of doom,
As the warlords usher in a new era of gloom.
Once pride and joy of the British Empire,
Fearless in combat against enemy fire,
The war horse waits restlessly in a noisy war zone,
Longing to graze peacefully on pastures back home
By Robin Moore
Day 5 Lille to Aniche
A difficult starting, making a wrong exit and having to walk to Cysoing which is too Far East. I now have to rectify the situation by walking to D938. This becomes a long non-event day – nothing to report other the constant surge of traffic heading towards! Dangerous! By nightfall I am frustrated by the lack of hotels and can’t even get any groceries for the evening; with half a bottle of water left I retreat from the road and bivvy up in a small coppice next to a farm house for the night. The flow of traffic dies down enough by midnight to allow a few hours sleep.
POEM OF THE DAY
Life on the Frontline
POEM – ‘The Tommie’
A ‘Tommie’s’ life is but a candle in a storm,
It flickers like a moth at night and may only live till dawn.
Fate lies fifty yards away in the path of coiled wire,
He may be lucky this time and dodge the rapid fire.
But the cycle of warfare brings little respite,
As a counter-offensive prolongs his fight.
Now with broken spirit, tiredness and despair,
Comes the inevitable stalemate of trench warfare.
There are sleepless nights beneath mud and rain,
Artillery bombardments that drive him insane.
The shells feared most are those armed with gas,
A lethal mist that brings horror in a blast.
At the dead of night a sniper digs in,
As the “Tommies” share cigarettes from a ration tin,
First light is good as he needs to take aim,
But don’t take the third for it will be the end game.
The cold winter days bring frostbite and flu,
Sometimes trench foot, and skin that turns blue,
The dugouts are waterlogged, muddy and dire,
Like “no mans land” above – a bloody quagmire.
The stench of death is always near,
It stings our nostrils with numbing fear.
There are colonies of rats and lice here too,
We all think of home and a decent brew.
This may seem to many an unusual job,
And yet people sign up to join this mob;
There is little comfort along a muddy frontline,
But It’s where the “Tommie” lives and serves his time.
Aniche to Cambrai
Cracking on at first light I had difficulty building momentum as my feet were so sore on every step. Not daring to look at them for fear of panic I take the only painkiller available to me (an emergency supply in case my back flares up!). Eventually I reach the next town en route known as Bouchain set by the River L’Escaut. I am now less than 18km to Cambrai. After coffee at a nearby hotel I continue my journey towards A2 flyover. Extending my trip from Flander’s to Cambrai proves to be hard work on busy roads which although mostly offer cycle routes, does not alter the fact I am constantly subjected to Tarmac! Eventually a steady pace wins through in the end and I reach Cambrai around lunchtime; here I photograph exquisite architecture and the flying Angel of Mons statue which signals the BEF 1914 retreat from Belgium. They fared better here in 1917 with the sophistication of the tank as a weapon in the field – ‘The Dalek of the Day’. Sadly one of my he last pointless battles fought here on the eve of Armistice resulted in the death of famous war poet Sir Wilfred Owen: his journey through life really was a true ‘ Pilgrimage of War and Words’.
POEM OF THE DAY
AN OVERVIEW OF THE GREAT WAR
POEM – ‘No Winners in War’
‘Each ruling party believed their cause to be right,
Prompting seven countries of Europe to rise up in a fight.
Enthusiasm and excitement for this war of insanity
Made the Continent a dark place of great calamity.
Remember the upsurge of patriotic elation,
Men cheering from trains on their way to damnation.
But when our ‘Champions of Liberty’ waged war on the ‘Hun’,
The lights went out in Europe for a long time to come.
Soon Big guns rain down fire from west to east,
Decimating the land like a great smoking beast.
Pointless battles see millions suffer death,
And Shell shocked survivors gasping for breath.
Who would rise victorious from this cauldron of madness,
Halt tolling bells from their mournful sadness.
Both sides face defeat with a generation lost,
Because No one envisaged a great war at such cost.
Ultimately, death to old Europe is the final result,
Who will modernise, rebuild it, and who is at fault.
Emotions were mixed over who was to blame,
But war to the elite is little more than a game.
A moment of madness lit the touch fuse to war,
Belgium first subjugated breaking peace treaty law.
Then France sacked and ruined in a 4 year assault,
Until finally a railway carriage brought war to a halt.
Now Autumn guns fall silent across the land,
Their deadly action powerless without command.
Soon, trees will grow tall again in wooded glades,
And poppies bright red to mark fallen comrades.
So the war was really over, like a new gift of life,
No more waterlogged trenches amid winter strife.
Thank God for an end to those dreadful 4 years,
No one else will die now, no more burials and tears.
But that’s little comfort to the young men who fell,
Sent from many nations to this place they call hell;
They’ll never know this euphoria, for they are gone,
Rotting in foreign battlefields a long way from home.’
By Robin Moore
We will remember them!
To support our fundraising for Cornwall Hospice Care please come along and participate in either one of or both our auctions and enjoy some light entertainment afterwards too! Otherwise you can make a donation in the yellow jars provided or at our justgiving page:
THE CORNISH PILGRIMAGE SPRING WALK AND AUTUMN WALK/FUNDRAISING
This year’s fundraising concludes after the last auction (Fox & Hounds) on 27th October. The Great War Trilogy will be published in time for Armistice Week and will be available at Amazon, Cornish Library Redruth, the Star Inn, Vogue and other local outlets.
Also visit: Robin Moore’s Walking for Charity on Facebook and YouTube.