Tomorrow I am setting off for Northern France, to spend a week visiting the memorials, battle sites and graves from the First World War. I have been planning this journey for the better part of a year and I’m hoping that I can fit everything that I’ve got down on my itinerary in.
I’m based just outside the town of Albert for most of the week, in a little cottage right on the edge of the Somme canal, and from there I shall be visiting Loos, Vimy Ridge, Albert itself, Thiepval, Delville Wood, Peronne, Butte de Wallencourt and the Armistice carriage just outside Compiegne, not to mention various fields and woods that played host to some almost unimaginable horrors between 1914 and 1918. Then, for the final weekend, I shall head up to Belgium and spend two days in Ieper, joining the only offical tour of my trip as well as attending the Menin Gate last post ceremony (which they hold every night at 8pm) and visiting Passchendaele.
I have a list of museums as long as my arm I want to visit, plus I want to find the plaque of my Gran’s step-father on the Thiepval Memorial as well as visit the place he died and where his body still lies. I’m not entirely sure what I think I’ll find, or see, or feel, but I do know that I’m glad the time to depart has finally arrived.
I have my camera, my notebook, my sketching pencils and a very strange feeling in my stomach. I think it’s excitement but it might be nerves. I’ll let you all know which it was when I’m back in Blighty again!