Paris to Provins

Provins to Dijon

Dijon to Montbeliard

Montbeliard to Obernai

Obernai to Pont-A-Mousson

Pont-A-Mousson to Epernay

Epernay to Armentieres

Armentieres to Ieper

Ieper to Paris


Paris to Amboise

Amboise to Angers

Angers to Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel to Arromanches

Arromanches to Brezolles

Brezolles to Paris

Paris to Pruzilly

Pruzilly to Chamonix

Chamonix to Cueno, Italy

Cueno to Antibe

Antibe to Cuges Des Pins

Cuges Des Pins to Pont Du Guard

Pont Du Guard to Mende

Mende to Paris

Paris to Auckland via Hong Kong

Tour Costs


Contact Us

Bratts Website Homepage

Buglers at Dave gallahers graveSunrise at Tyne Cot CemeteryMenin Gate from old city

DAY 8 - Armentières to Ieper 12/10/2007

We set off early in the morning in the dark, on a cold misty day. We knew we wouldn’t get there in time for the dawn service and noticed two bus loads of All Black tourists that had possibly been. I can’t image what it was like as the dark misty fog didn’t lift until 11.00am. We arrived at the local war museum in Passchendaele only to find it wouldn’t open for another hour. The museum grounds were busy after just holding a breakfast for the Passchendaele 90th anniversary. There were NZ soldiers around who had attended the breakfast. The worst ever day of casualties and deaths in NZ’s war history took place on this day 90 years ago. The Belgium people hold New Zealanders in the highest regard because they believe NZ'ers were instrumental in saving their country from the Germans. If only we could have saved our soldiers from the British military leaders who led so many of them to their deaths through inane decisions.

Roger had seen on TV some time ago that Ieper holds a last post service every night to remember those that died in the battles in the area. We had a long time to fill in between that and had an hour before the museum opened so I inquired from one of the military people walking around what other Passchendaele events were on. When they found out we were New Zealanders they gave us the details of the services for New Zealanders that made for a very memorable day.

NZRU, NZDF, Roger & Jeannine gravesideCommemorative service with NZ Defence Force, NZ Rugby Union representatives and two intrepid explorers
Rugby Guy who stayed to look after Dave gallaherOur Rugby Guy #2 who we left in Flanders Fields to keep Dave Gallaher company at Nine Elms Cemetery.

We had minutes to get across town to the memorial service for Dave Gallaher an All Black captain who died in World War 1 at Passchendaele and is buried at a cemetery near where he died in battle. It was poorly signposted but we got to the cemetery in time because the NZ dignitaries and the Belgium minister conducting the service had also got lost. Apart from us, the NZ Army representatives, a few Belgium officials and the minister the only other attendees were 4 NZRU reps which included Jock Hobbs, Andy Leslie, Chris Moller and Ken Douglas (who also represented the Government).

Graventafel MemorialMemorial to New Zealanders at Graventafel

After a short speech, a bugle tune, a wreath laying ceremony and our interview by the NZ Army, the Minister had to cut a track to attend the NZ memorial service and so did we. It was a pretty poor turn out considering how many All Black supporters were in the region for the Rugby World Cup. We laid our symbol of respect for Dave in the form of an All Black doll adorned with poppy and silver fern. I think the same man that led the war organised the ceremonies as we had trouble getting to the NZ memorial at Graventafel in the short time after one ceremony finished and the other started. It didn’t help that they had closed off the road. We followed some fellow New Zealanders, former MP Margaret Austin’s son and Donald a South Island farmer, and ran up the road.

Although the ceremony was attended by locals and Kiwis is was still a bit dismal. The actual war was held in extremely bad winter weather and the ground was so muddy that it on its own resulted in deaths. Today was damp and the smell came from pigs and silage rather than dead corpses.

Passchendale War DisplayPasschendaele township displayed large battle scenes on the front of several buildings.

After the ceremony we made another mad dash this time to the Passchendaele village to grab some lunch before the French influenced Belgium shops shut for lunch. We were too slow and the shops were shut; even the pub stop serving food around lunchtime. However that was a blessing because Belgium hasn’t banned smoking in pubs yet. We stumbled across two Delis in a back street, one sold really nice bread and cheese products and the other beautiful meats such as tongue in jelly. The shop assistant, like the Belgium bakery we had breakfast from, was so pleasant and spoke perfect English. We ate our lunch in the Passchendaele shopping car park which obviously wasn’t being used at lunch time. You wonder if they stopped the war for a two hour lunch.

Tyne Cot cemeteryMore headstones in Tyne Cot Cemetery

The mist and fog had abated slightly so we headed off to the Tyne Cot Cemetery where most of the New Zealand soldiers who died in the battle to claim some small hill are buried along with other nationalities. The Belgium people and the French show so much respect for the soldiers who defended their countries from the Germans and Russians etc that they maintain the cemeteries very well. The lawns are pristine, the headstones clean and there is a flowering plant by every headstone.

We managed to find a Brake (although he was a Pom). He however is on the wall of honour as his body was never recovered and he is still in Flanders Field with the poppies.

Passchendale museumMuseum at Passchendaele

We finally made it back to the Passchendaele Museum which was interesting. The Passchendaele campaign was going well up until the 12th of October and the town was being successfully defended until an English General decided he had to make a name for himself. He decided against all odds to fight in the worst conditions possible and led his men to their death. He definitely got his name in the history books then.

We found a nice campsite in Ieper and walked into town to see the sights and check out the Menin Gates for tonight’s last post ceremony. We bought the essentials, a teddy bear and Belgium chocolates. We went back later for tea and caught up with Donald the South Island farmer who helped us get to the NZ memorial service earlier in the day. Donald was a true blue Oamaru farmer who had on in Belgium’s winter his shorts and work boots.

After Belgium steak and fish and chips we paced off at great speed to get a good position at the Menin Gates on Donald’s advice which was smart because even though this event takes place every night there were a lot of people in attendance. Tonight’s ceremony had a NZ theme because it was our day. Margaret Austin, MP for Christchurch and a Maori group playing wood and bone wind instruments played a big part in the ceremony.

Kiwis at Menin GateKiwis gathered at Menin Gate for the 90th anniversary of the battle at Ypres/Ieper.

Some private school boys from Eton or somewhere with the poshest English accents believe England will reign over France not only in the rugby but in life. One little chappie didn’t follow rugby and thought NZ was somewhere near Papua New Guinea. I rewarded his close guess with a NZ silver fern pin, yahoo only 40 or so to get rid off.



Next page...


Menin Gate IeperMenin Gate, Ypres.
Tyne Cot DawnTyne Cot Cemetery at dawn
Nine Elms CemeteryNine Elms Cemetery, Poperinge.