134 THE YPRES TIMES and fears of news of their menfolk who were reported Missing on some fateful morning, the Menin Gate Memorial enshrines their memory in massive stone, and witnesses to the untiring vigilance and devotion of those valiant soldiers who barred the gate to Calais." To the ex-Service men, returning to the scenes of their nightmare years of mud and blood, what a strange contrast the new Ypres presentsThe young lovers linger on the ramparts in the cool of the evening, where one formerly burrowed like a mole in the catacombs beneath. The town band plays in the Grand' Place, and young Belgians dance foxtrots to its strains, under the ruins of the Cloth Hall, but yesterday a holocaust of incendiary and explosive shells. Birr Cross Roads and Hell Fire Corner are safer to cross than the Strand, and as one proceeds along the Menin Road, instead of a mud track between scores of shell holes, smiling cornfields greet the eye on every hand. Even Hooge Crater has vanished, and one experiences almost a sense of disappointment at the disappearance of such well-known landmarks. But if one probes deeper, sometimes an old pillbox, where one lived for weeks, may be discovered amidst the blackberry brambles of Glencorse Wood, or the garden of a new red-roofed farmhouse. In 1917 one could not have surmised that a village or even a chateau had ever exis ted. Only a signboard and a heap of rubble marked the site of Hooge, and a huge crater yawned' at the cross-roads. To-day, a church has been built on the site, and the crater is now an orna mental lake decked with flying pigs in hooge chateau garden, water lilies. A new chateau has risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of the old, and its owner has collected in the garden a perfect armoury of war souvenirs. Flying pigs have been converted into flower pots, and are a blaze of blue lobelia; peaceful bees swarm in the beehives under an old elephant iron, and in the centre of the courtyard a statue of the Madonna looks benignantly down on a scene of peace in which the shell cases and Lewis guns seem strangely out-of-place And the Baroness of Béthune has done a signal service in collecting in her museum all the war relics discovered for miles around. Here may be seen the old trench notices, "Hotel Cecil," etc., and one, riddled with shrapnel, which reads, Do not expose yourself to the enemy; if you are not hit yourself, somebody else will be." Here also German helmets, revolvers, rifles, hand grenades, bayonets and trench mortars lie cheek by jowl with English rifles, Lewis guns, water bottles, tin helmets, gas masks and shell cases. If these could speak, what tales they could tell of sanguinary battles and all the long-drawn horrors of bombardment in water logged trenches. Time and Nature have done their best to cover up the tracks of this hideous Armageddon, when civilisation tottered to its foundations for four years, and men reverted to the life of the beast. But may we hope that the signing of the Peace Pact in Paris on August 27th, by the Allies and late enemies, will mean the final outlawry of war? Then, and only then, will this stupendous sacrifice of human life, of which Ypres so eloquently testifies, not have been made in vain. A. W. W.


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1929 | | pagina 8