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Viewpoint from Revd Canon Nick Garrard 08/09/2017 

NICK GARRARDRevd Canon Nick Garrard
Nick is Rector of the Broadside Benefice (Ranworth with Panxworth, South Walsham and Upton and Fishley, Woodbastwick)


as published in the Yarmouth Mercury

 

One hundred years ago today, my grandfather, Reg Brooks, was fighting in the mud at Passchendaele. He also fought against the mud. Reg served in the Army on the Western Front for the last two years of World War I and told me it was the worst mud he ever encountered. The water table is only three feet below ground in that part of Belgium, so the trenches were constantly filling up. Coupled with the heaviest rainfall for thirty years and millions of shells churning up the ground, a bottomless sea of mud was created

dove leftMy grandfather told me that the only way across the mud was on wooden duckboards. One slip and you were gone, he said. Nearly sixty years on he could still hear the cries for help from men who had fallen in. There was nothing you could do, he said, you just had to keep moving. The war poet Siegfried Sassoon, wrote ‘I died in hell …They called it Passchendaele’

Passchendaele simply disappeared in the battle, but afterwards, a new village named Passendale was built. Its neat brick houses and surrounding green pastures give little away about the carnage of a century ago. A factory produces Belgium’s most popular cheese, named after the village. But look more closely and you will see the memorials on the walls, the monuments in the fields to the men who fought here and the 700,000 who became casualties. This part of Belgium has never forgotten. It continues to express its gratitude

Dove rightSome years ago, my family and I stood in the crowds in nearby Ypres on November 11th, watching the Devon Fire Brigade and local bands marching together. Many locals wore poppies. Out of the tragedy of war came lasting friendships, not just with our allies but also our former enemies. Friendship is the poppy that bloomed in a sea of mud

Today, as Brexit negotiations continue, we don’t know how our nation will relate to the rest of Europe in the future. But let us remember Passchendaele and its war cemeteries, forever Belgium and also forever England.   May we build a future worthy of them, built on love, respect and mutual understanding, supporting one another in an uncertain world


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