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A Trip To Remember

1st of December 2014

Around this time last year, I met by chance a keen amateur WWI historian. Across the dinner table I heard the word ‘Messines’, a place I had heard of many times. My late husband’s father had been wounded there in the Hallowe’en Battle in 1914 with The London Scottish. His experience that day had affected the rest of his life. He returned there on many occasions and told both his sons more than they needed to know. So, I had a chat with Howard and thought no more.

In the summer, Howard rang to see if I had any memorabilia regarding the battle or The London Scottish. My loft yielded three suitcases of ‘stuff”: sporrans, photos, all manner of bits and pieces and a series of letters sent by the 17 year old Ted to his parents. One, written from his hospital bed, went into great detail about the battle and how he had been wounded. Howard was delighted and took it all to his friend in Belgium.

The Town Hall Museum was thrilled, as were the London Scottish, and they have made a whole new exhibition of all this ‘stuff’. They also discovered that a painting hanging in the Town Hall since 1970 was by Ted; so this has also joined the exhibition.

I was invited to go to Messines for the opening on the 100th anniversary of the battle and also to be a guest at The London Scottish Regimental Association Centenary Dinner in Ypres!

The exhibition was very interesting and well laid out; a service at the London Scottish Memorial was very moving… then came the dinner. The next day Howard took me on a tour of the battlefields and various war graves and then it was off to Ypres and the Menin Gate for the last post. The piper piped and Isla St Clair sang ‘Flowers of the Forest’ you could have heard a pin drop. Then the ‘last post’. All so moving.

I am most grateful to Howard Webby for taking me, and to Jacky for lending me her husband, the perfect gent! Howard’s knowledge of the area made it all so much more interesting. So many lives lost or damaged, some beyond repair. We need to see the mistakes of the past, of a generation lost, so that we do not make the same mistakes in the future.

You never know what challenges or opportunities life will throw at you, and this trip has shown me that we should seize them with both hands, however far outside our comfort zone they are. I am so glad I went!
Wendy Bathurst

This page is edited by Tony

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