As the nation paused for thought at 11 o’clock on November 11th for Remembrance Day, Birch Green resident Edna thought back to the summer she took a trip around Europe, visiting memorial sites dedicated to soldiers who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
Edna collected over 100 photographs from her trip which she displays in special albums. After the two minutes silence on November 11th, Edna took out the albums to share her memories with the staff and residents of Birch Green, beginning by telling us how in June 1994, she set off in her caravan with friends Marian, Geoff and Tom to visit Belgium, Holland and France.
During her time in Belgium, Edna saw the Thiepval Memorial, which contains the names of 76,000 soldiers whose graves are unknown. She also went to the largest cemetery in Belgium, Tyne Cot, which is the resting place of 12,000 soldiers, with the same amount of unknown graves. At the Menin Gate, Edna learnt how every night at 8pm the Last Post ceremony takes place, honouring those who lost their lives fighting in the war. She also visited a German lookout and bunkers.
In Holland, Edna managed to locate the grave of her neighbour’s son, who was a paratrooper. She also saw the Jack Frost Bridge, which was named after Major-General John Dutton Frost who led British forces during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 and which featured in the 1997 film ‘A Bridge Too Far.’ At the Hartenstein Hotel, Edna learnt how during conflict the hotel was turned into a hospital to treat wounded soldiers.
Reflecting on her time in France, Edna told us how she visited a rather haunting memorial in the form of a chapel within a cemetery in Notre Dame, remembering how atmospheric and moving it was.
Though an incredibly emotional and overwhelming experience, Edna says looking back, it was very worthwhile, and although 21 years have passed, it still seems like only yesterday.