30/07/2022 - Speech by Benoit Mottrie, Chairman of the Last Post Association
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
We are here this evening to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the start of the Third Battle of Ypres.
On occasions like this, it is customary to express our gratitude for the gifts of peace and freedom that such battles helped to secure. After all, we each experience the benefit of these gifts day after day.
Likewise, we only need to look at the walls around us to have some idea of the terrible cost that had to be paid for our liberties. But what we can never know, what we can never experience, is what it must have been like for the men who took part in these battles.
No words can properly convey the horrors that they were forced to endure. But perhaps the following extract from a letter found on the body of a German officer near Zonnebeke might give us some vague sense of their suffering. The text reads as follows:
“If it were not for the men who have been spared me on this fierce day and are lying around me, I should have shed hot and bitter tears over the terrors that have menaced me during these hours. After crawling through the bleeding remnants of my comrades, and through the smoke and debris, running in the midst of the raging fire in search of refuge, I am now awaiting death at any moment. You do not know what Flanders means. Flanders means endless human endurance. Flanders means blood and scraps of human bodies. Flanders means heroic courage and faithfulness, even unto death.”
It meant the same to the soldiers of both sides, German and British alike. Just as it means the same to all soldiers in all wars and in all ages, even our own. This is something we must never forget and it must encourage us to redouble our efforts to make sure it never happens again.