So before we start D-day +1 proper, perhaps I ought to give you a brief description of the farm itself.
For anyone who has seen the layouts of the Waterloo farms, Hugumont(Spelling?) etc. it was it seems a typical Belgian farm layout. The only thing missing was the walled court yard which may have existed on the original farm which was pretty well destroyed in WW1.
Anyway, there was the large main house building, the holiday rooms were upstairs, the rest of the building appeared to be family occupied with shared use of the huge dinning room. There was a large barn/garage that was at right angles to the main farm building and was currently being converted to provide more holiday accomodation.
The garage part was now an unoficiall museum of equipment found on the farm over the last 15 years or so. Apparantly prior to that they just used to through the stuff away if it was no longer live and pass the rest onto bomb disposal, but that was before Charlotte got the hots for WW1 and thank goodness she did.
At various corners of the farm were small piles of unexploded shell, mostly British 18pdrs. Charlotte explained how to spot the difference and how to diferentiate between early German shells and the late war years equivalents. This largely being that the late shell had little or no brass content and rusted like mad in the soil. This I would like to point out did not make me too keen on the idea of picking up an unexploded German 1917 shell where as your average British job looked a reasonable rusted heap of scrap. Charlotte and her familly tossed them around gaily as one might toss a pancake without turning a hair.
Anyhow theirs swag included a German maxim machine gun, oodles of shells live and cases, bulletts, bayonets, wire posts and the odd mangled up rifle or two. Quite a haul really. Amazing they never get into trouble as most of the weapons are bent double showing they have had a good cloberring with the plough which I would have thought was not too good for unexploded shells.
So back to the plot. Breakfast. After the sleep of the dead we awoke for breakfast about 0930hrs and wondered down to find Charlotte had prepared breakfast for about 200 guests - well that's what it appeared to be! The long dinning table was covered with food. I shall endeavour to recount all that I can recall.
Cereals, two loafs the size of small filing cabinets, one was plain white bread and one brown. There was a plate of equally large slices of ham and cheese that were made to fit the huge slabs of bread. There were baps (Charlotte had not lied - they were huge!), butter by the ton, jams, marmalade, a small Belgian loaf that looked and tasted like Madera cake. Wait, there's more! Eggs, cold custard in side dishes and slabs of Belgian chocolate. To help you get this lot down your neck there were huge pots of tea and coffee. I for one felt a bit like the dormouse at the 'hatters tea party'.
Charlotte even said to ask if we needed anything more. Perhaps an extra stomach would have helped.
So loaded up we prepared to set of for our site seeing tour. Adam had already had a wonder around the farm and found some shrapnel balls when he was playing with the daft farm dog.
We were off mainly to look at the Menin road, Polygon Wood, Sanctuary Wood, Hellfire Corner, Hodge farm and many other memorials that we just happened upon. Our first stop (Hellfire Corner is now a busy traffic island) was at an old chapel museum opposite a large crater cemetery. As we had been travelliong nearly 20 minutes Andrew was in need of sustanance again and I was ready for a drink so we first off had a drink and then went into the museum.
There was quite a bit of material to view and by and large it was a damn good exhibition, but then we came to expect that of the whole area. There certainly is no shortage of materials in the region, almost every farm churns up bits every time they plough and this some 20 years after the area has been declared officially clean of unexploded objects. The cemetery was a bit of an eye opener. Adam noticed that several of the graves were marked as containing more than one body, usually 3 or 4 but we then found three stones marking 29 dead. There couldn't have much left of those poor sods.
Anyway we continued onto the 'Sanctuary Wood' museum a little further down the road where they boast the best piece of trench left in the area. I have to say that when I saw the pathetic looking shallow muddy trench I thought it was a con but when you walked through them they still had tunnels dug through to the far end of the wood whcih due to lack of torch and wellies we did not walk through.
Inside there were some of the most original photos of life in WW1 trenches I have ever seen. They were all set up in their original 'what the buttler saw' type machines and it was soon clear that compared to some areas those pathetic shallow mud ditches outside were first class accomodation. Adam particularly liked the German with half his face blown off and the horses body hanging of the remains of a tree like a grim Christmas decoration.
And there I think we must leave Dunkirk diary for another day. The rest will follow as we continue to Polygon Wood etc.