Anyone who knows me knows how important my family and friends are to me. So, when the opportunity presented itself to be near the resting place of my great uncle (mother’s uncle), it was imperative to ensure I could go.
Private Ryles was killed on the fields of Passchendaele in 1917, and now lays in rest in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Tyne Cot – with so, so many other young men. At the end of this roughly six month campaign, the Allied forces had advanced a total of 8 km through mud and cold, for the loss of a staggering almost half a million lives on both sides.
Mum never met Uncle David, having been born a few years after he was killed, and never had the chance to go out of the country. At 93 now, I thought it the least I could do is drive down the freeway for few hours, pay my respects, and get some photos of where he is laid to show her.
Standing in amongst all those grave stones, so many of them unknown, on that cold, damp, dreary afternoon … it is a feeling that will stay forever etched in my mind. It was disturbing and uplifting and so many other emotions at the same time – especially when a touring youth sports team came through, and a local group of school kids. I wonder, in their freedom to giggle and play here and now, if they really have an idea of the sacrifices that were made for them to be able to do that? But then, I truly hope they never experience those horrors.
Here I must thank my friend from sculpture at uni – Jennifer Tran. Currently, she is bending her special talents to the creation of paper flowers. They are truly beautiful. She kindly agreed to make a red poppy to leave with Pvt. Ryles as a message from our home such a long way away. Thank you Jen. As can bee seen from the photo, it was delivered.