August 6, 2016

An American in Belgium: Lauren Hall

This year marks a century since the beginning of what was then known as The Great War.  “The War to End All Wars” was a hellish five year period that ravaged Northern France and Western Flanders, as heavy artillery destroyed the landscape in relentless bombings, introduced the use of chemical warfare with mustard gas and the machine gun which led to trench warfare and resulted in the costliest and bloodiest war in modern history.  The battleground of Flanders, Belgium and Northern France are inextricably linked to the atrocities of the Great War and there is not a day that passes that doesn’t commemorate the sacrifice and loss of life that took place in an effort to liberate Belgium and France from the cruel hands of Germany.  Traversing the quiet and wind filled flatlands of Westhoek, the bucolic portion of western Flanders that stitches itself together with northeastern France, and the first thing one notices is the immense solitude. The other is the number of cemeteries.  Large, small and every size in between, immaculately manicured parcels of land honoring Commonwealth soldiers from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain and Scotland fill the landscape.  And while it’s difficult to escape the haunting history of the region’s past, it is also easy to embrace the beauty and peacefulness that fills the area once ravaged by war.  Read more


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