Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ypres, or Ieper (WWI) - Menen Gate and WWI Salient; Flanders Field

Menen Gate, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium. With rainbow.

Ieper (Ypres) was the site of prolonged battles in WWI. It is near the French border. Arras is not far.  See a film about the trench warfare and the area at ://

 The town, bombed out, has been reconstructed and this Gate is the site of daily taps-memorials-services for whatever group has scheduled itself for that time.  There are readings of names, and a small service, color guards.  Note the rainbow. The Gate heads toward the next town, Menen, and groups gather from all different countries here.

We caught the rainbow.  No need for advance reservations to spend the night.  There are plenty of B&B's, and if the first ones are full, ask if they could refer you. They will probably even call ahead for you, and give you a map.

Wars get personal.

Meet a veteran, my uncle in this 1950's or so photo, who fought at Ypres with the Canadian Army.  He used to say that he and his companions called the place "Wipers." He was gassed, but recovered without injury. He did not talk much about the war. He did say that in a convoy of trucks, the one immediately behind his was blown up, no survivors.

Veteran, Canadian Army, WWI, Ypres (Ieper) Belgium. Salute the work.

The white square by his glasses must be part of the windowsill?

I have heard the town pronounced as "Eeps" - the French -  and "Eeper." German or Dutch? Watch your map, and you will probably find the spelling "Ieper" now.

For a photo gallery, see

The town is in West Flanders, and a war overview is at At the beginning of the battle (there were several long ones), people would go out in their carriages and watch.

For all sites, go to the home page first, and only use the rest of the address as is helpful.

People to remember:  
Col. John McCrae

John McCrae wrote the famous poem, In Flanders Field, and was Canadian. Read the poem again, and about how and when it was written in 1915, at an Arlington Cemetery site -- His biography is at  See and hear it at ://; or ://

Do not miss the exhibits at the war museum. Panoramas, scenes, reenactments, lights, sound.

And the poem. 
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow (1)
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ypres, or Ieper (WWI) - "In Flanders' Field;" and Arras, France: Finding War Dead

 Finding War Dead
Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Edwin McConaghey

World War I. This "The Great War", "The War To End All Wars"

World War I is remote for many, visions of endless mud and treacherous trench warfare, agony for horses still ridden against the bullets.  It is current for us with an interest in history, and specific participants. See map at  Many if not most war records from the First World War were destroyed in the bombing of London in World War II, particularly the wounded.  Death records are available more reliably.

Finding people. We were looking for a relative who had served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Maurice Edwin McConaghy, and who fell near Ypres, now Ieper, during WWI.  He is buried near Arras, France, see

Finding World War I records:  How to do that

1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at .  This works if the spelling input is the same as the record.  If the soldier or officer changed the spelling of a surname without other relatives recording that, go deeper. We did not find Maurice McConaghy through the War Graves. 

2. We then went to the Documents Office at Ieper itself. This is a records library. The clerk went on the computer, found nothing (as we had found nothing) but thought to check the military logs and narratives written about events. 

He found the old cloth bound book, The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918) by John Buchan, with a preface by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Colonel-In-Chief, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons.  The clerk photocopied pages that related to the 2d Division, with Maurice Edwin McConaghey, Lt. Col.  That is the one. "Maurice McConaghey."   But with an "e" in the McConaghey.

Also described -where and how he was first wounded, and then, near Arras, fell.

3. The Burial.

Burials are in pocket cemeteries, not big memorial parks.  In this area, they buried many soldiers where they fell in WWI, so there are literally hundreds of vest-pocket size cemeteries all around France and Belgium. Ours was among the 500 pocket cemesteries near Arras, France - so of course we went there. We finally found it. Immaculate caretaking.

Grave, Lt. Col. Maurice McConaghey, Arras, France, WWI

Gravestone.  Lt. Col. Maurice McConaghey with the "e."  Killed in 1917. Hello, salute, and yes, we do remember. He had also served in South Africa. We even found the record of the hospital ship online that brought Maurice McConaghey back from South Africa, wounded. See Boer Wars, Studying Wars

The Canadian officer who wrote the famous WWI poem, "In Flanders Field," John McRae, and who died in 1915, had also served in South Africa.  For the poem, see

We left a pebble on the top of the headstone.