Update on visiting the graves and memorials of the Coo-ees
Over the past 21 days Stephen and I have visited 22 cemeteries and memorials in England, and 161 cemeteries and memorials in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany, to take photographs of the headstones or names on memorials of about 762 WWI or WWII soldiers who were from our local Central West NSW area (and a few family members), and those who were recruits on the Coo-ee March, the Boomerang March, and the Kookaburra March.
Coo-ees who died during WWI are in 27 of these cemeteries and memorials, including the Menin Gate at Iepers (Ypres) in Belgium, and the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.
I had hoped to include a brief blog entry about each of these cemeteries and memorials, and the names of the Coo-ees who are buried or named there while on holidays, however due to our busy schedule, I have not been able to complete this project. I will continue with these entries, and blog entries for individual Coo-ees, focusing on those who died during WWI, once I return to Australia at the end of September.
Visiting so many cemeteries and memorials over the past three weeks, many of them dotting the rural landscape and villages which were the WWI battlefields in France and Belgium, has given us an overview of the scope and the tragedy of the many young mens’ lives that were lost during this conflict.
We were impressed with the upkeep of the cemeteries by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which have beautifully manicured lawns, and flowers (including many roses) and shrubs.
We also noted that in just about every cemetery we visited there were small Australian flags, small wooden crosses, and soldiers photographs and other mementoes (even a beer stubby holder) on many of the Australian war graves.
Earlier this afternoon we visited the Villers-Brettoneux Memorial to photograph the 180 names on our list of soldiers, who had no known grave – 11 of these were Coo-ees.
An epitah on the last Coo-ee grave we visited this afternoon – Harold Baxter from Gilgandra, at the Bancourt British Cemetery near Bapaume in France – was particularly touching:
“Harold dear, brave boy
Thou wert too young to die
But duty called”.