Day five: Ypres to Aubers

WW1 is everywhere, as we headed south towards Arras, essentially following the frontlines of 1914 – 1918. Sign posts to war cemeteries are everywhere, and we stopped at most of those on our route to honour those that died.

First major stop was at Messen ( Messines) where there is a memorial to the 827 NZ soldiers whose bodies were never found after that battle in 1917. Next stop was more personal, in the nearby village of Ploegsteert, at the comparatively small London Rifle Brigade cemetery, where Great Uncle Alexander Campbell is buried.

In the afternoon we stopped at the Australian Memorial for the battle of Fromelles. This was the Australian Army’s first engagement on the western front, and was an unmitigated disaster due to the incompetence of the British commanders. The battle was fought by the Australian 5th division and the British 61st division. The Aussies suffered over 5,500 casualties, and was the biggest divisional loss of the entire war. Over 2,000 were killed in action or died of wounds, and of those 1,299 have no known grave.

Our stop for the day was Aubers. Luckily we arrived early afternoon, as later in the day the temperature soared to 42c. The campsite pool was both too crowded and too warm, so we lounged poolside and made use of the cold showers provided to rinse off pre-pool (use of the regular showers at this campsite required a token to operate, so there was a method in our madness.) The village’s only store was closed for summer vacation, but fortunately the cafe was not, and the cold beer and menu de jour provided adequate sustenance.

Daily kms: 38

DMM: the heat, and the fact that it is easier to get a beer mid-morning in Belgium than a coffee!

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