Archive for December, 2010
Not really Great War related but I was very saddened to hear of the death of Brian Hanrahan at the age of 61 from cancer. I always thought him a quality journalist and well remember his reporting of the Falklands conflict. I met him in July 2007 when he led a BBC team that followed Harry Patch on one of his pilgrimages back to Ypres. Brian seemed a really nice guy, genuinely interested in Harry and the visit. You can tell with many journalists that it is ‘just a story’. On that 2007 trip it was clear that Brian certainly realised it was more than a story and acknowledged how lucky he was to have such unfettered access to Harry on his time in and around the Ypres Salient. He was a real gentleman, was never pushy with his requests and was quite happy to just follow us on our usual pilgrimage sites. The footage from his team’s visit is available on YouTube here but, sadly, this is the BBC West version so it doesn’t have Brian’s commentary.
Some photos of him interviewing Harry on the Passchendaele battlefield and then relaxing at John Vandewalle’s wonderful De Dreve café at Polygon Wood. It was during this interview, literally over a beer, that I saw Harry at his most relaxed. This was, in no small part, down to the skill of the interviewer. Great memories for us who were there and very sad to think that both men have now died.
I have been sent some photos of a trip to the Ypres battlefields made in 1984. I was still in the second year of secondary school at this point so didn’t go along – the two intrepid travellers were my father and eldest brother, Mark (http://www.mgbtours.com/). For the both of them this was their first trip to any Great War battlefield. I am glad to say that it was certainly not their last – my father regularly visits both Ypres and the Somme with the rest of the Banning family and also with the wonderful Genesta Battlefield Club. As for Mark, he now spends his time as a full-time battlefield guide (and highly recommended he is too) so it is clear that this 1984 pilgrimage was the first of many visits to the hallowed ground of the Ypres salient.
These pictures, taken in the pre-digital era, have been scanned and tidied up by me. Ignoring the questionable fashions on display they show fascinating details of many oft-visited places around the immortal salient – all without the coaches of visitors that often accompany some of these spots nowadays.
Of particular interest are the shots of the Advanced Dressing Station on the banks of the Ieper-Ijser canal at Essex Farm Cemetery which show the site before its restoration in the 1990s. Modern shots can be seen by visiting this site. Visitors to the area will know of its association with John McCrae, author of ‘In Flanders Fields’.
Also worth noting are the low trees at the Brooding Soldier Memorial at Vancouver Corner. It is amazing how the horticulture and the inexorable work of nature has such an effect on the way a particular spot looks. It was this site that held their main interest as they remembered my grandfather, Private Seymour Henry Banning, 13th Battalion, CEF (Royal Highlanders of Canada) who was gassed and taken POW very close to the spot on or around 22 April 1915 – one of the first men ever to have been gassed in warfare.
Click on the pictures to see them at full size.
Many thanks to my brother Mark Banning for these photos.