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PUBLISHED: 01:16 29 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:13 20 February 2013

Remembrance

Remembrance

From 1914-1918, hundreds of thousands of soldiers got their last glimpse of Britain from Kent's Channel ports, packed onto troop ships to join regiments across Northern France. Kent Life took the same route.

Kents Channel ports: Kent Life takes a trip aboard P&Os newest ferry:

From 1914-1918, hundreds of thousands of soldiers got their last glimpse of Britain from Kents Channel ports, packed onto troop ships to join regiments across Northern France. Kent Life took the same route, albeit travelling in luxury aboard P&Os newest ferry, to pay homage to one of those men Words by Amanda Fisher pictures by Simon Patterson and Manu Palomeque









Two hours drive from Calais Im strolling along the bank of a canal near the village of Ors. On this warm Sunday morning the church bells are tolling for mass. To the right and left of me the countryside resembles an Impressionist painting. Ahead the mist-topped waterway is poplar-lined beside meadows full of cattle, hills beyond roll into the distance an idyllic scene, glowing in the autumn sunlight.



Its hard to conceive of the ghastly sights, sounds and smells that once shattered this tranquil landscape. Yet here, on 4 November 1918, the bodies of scores
of soldiers littered the land.


Bayoneted, bludgeoned, blown to smithereens, their hopes and dreams ended in the first minutes of brutal engagement as they floundered through blasted fields, thick with mud, blood and the gory detritus of war.


They lost their lives horribly, in a futile attempt to claim a few extra centimetres on the map of Europe at a time when both sides knew the First World War was over, and to carry on fighting was a cynical, cruel
waste of time and troops.


After the action, shocked survivors found a pair
of standing bodies an English Tommy and a
German Fritz welded face to face in death by
the impact of their bayonet charge.


On that day England lost more than its fair share of brave men. In their midst lay a poetic genius whose compassionate and skilful writing still stirs the souls and breaks the hearts of millions of readers 80 years after his death. Wilfred Owen was just 25 and had everything to live for. A German bullet cut down the young lieutenant as he led his men across the Sambre-Oise canal.


A gifted poet, whose talent was recognised by celebrated author and war poet Siegfried Sassoon, Owen had already served and survived a tour of duty
with the Manchester Regiment in Northern France.


Hed been hospitalised back home with shellshock, recovering and returning to the Western Front shortly before his last battle. >


Billetted in the cramped, smoke-filled cellar of a foresters house in woods near Ors in late October 1918, Owen took time to write to his mother. Its a great lifeyou could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as surround me here. Wilfred x


She was to receive his letter on the day the Armistice was declared, along with the telegram informing
Susan and Tom Owen their beloved son had died
in action seven days earlier.


The words of that last letter home are now carved into a curved stone-walled walkway leading to the foresters bricklined cellar. They form part of a 1.5m Euro project that commemorates Wilfred Owens unique contribution to our understanding of war through his poetry, letters and manuscripts.


The tiny cellar remains untouched, but the 18th-century house above is transformed into a 21st-century sculptural object, its entire red-brick facade painted stark white to resemble bleached bone, the original roof encased and glazed to form a face-down open book.


The gutted interior seems a sanctuary, lined by translucent glass panels etched with fragments of original text from Wilfred Owens best-known and loved works, complete with corrections, scribbles and crossings-out.


The drafts bear testament to the poets struggle
with the barbaric absurdity of war My subject
is War, and the pity of War.


They include lines from Dulce et Decorum Est,
Anthem for Doomed Youth, The Dead Beat, and Spring Offensive; each poem backlit by waves of coloured lights activated by the recorded voice of actor Kenneth Branagh playing inside the room. Devised by British artist and Turner Prize nominee Simon Patterson, working alongside French architect Jean-Christophe Denise, the Foresters House has taken seven years to complete.


It was accomplished through Frances Artconnexion and New Patrons Programme, which gives ordinary people the opportunity to commission an artwork unique to their community.


After 93 years, Wilfred Owens bleak words I am the enemy you killed, my friend continue to carry across borders and speak to nations about the futility of war and the terrible impact warfare still has on the world today.


Lt Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC lies alongside 30 of his fellow soldiers beneath pristine rows of crisp white headstones inside the small War Graves Commission Cemetery at Ors (see below).










T



wo hours drive from Calais Im strolling along the bank of a canal near the village of Ors. On this warm Sunday morning the church bells are tolling for mass. To the right and left of me the countryside resembles an Impressionist painting. Ahead the mist-topped waterway is poplar-lined beside meadows full of cattle, hills beyond roll into the distance an idyllic scene, glowing in the autumn sunlight.


Its hard to conceive of the ghastly sights, sounds and smells that once shattered this tranquil landscape. Yet here, on 4 November 1918, the bodies of scores
of soldiers littered the land.


Bayoneted, bludgeoned, blown to smithereens, their hopes and dreams ended in the first minutes of brutal engagement as they floundered through blasted fields, thick with mud, blood and the gory detritus of war.


They lost their lives horribly, in a futile attempt to claim a few extra centimetres on the map of Europe at a time when both sides knew the First World War was over, and to carry on fighting was a cynical, cruel
waste of time and troops.


After the action, shocked survivors found a pair
of standing bodies an English Tommy and a
German Fritz welded face to face in death by
the impact of their bayonet charge.


On that day England lost more than its fair share of brave men. In their midst lay a poetic genius whose compassionate and skilful writing still stirs the souls and breaks the hearts of millions of readers 80 years after his death. Wilfred Owen was just 25 and had everything to live for. A German bullet cut down the young lieutenant as he led his men across the Sambre-Oise canal.


A gifted poet, whose talent was recognised by celebrated author and war poet Siegfried Sassoon, Owen had already served and survived a tour of duty
with the Manchester Regiment in Northern France.


Hed been hospitalised back home with shellshock, recovering and returning to the Western Front shortly before his last battle. >


Billetted in the cramped, smoke-filled cellar of a foresters house in woods near Ors in late October 1918, Owen took time to write to his mother. Its a great lifeyou could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as surround me here. Wilfred x


She was to receive his letter on the day the Armistice was declared, along with the telegram informing
Susan and Tom Owen their beloved son had died
in action seven days earlier.


The words of that last letter home are now carved into a curved stone-walled walkway leading to the foresters bricklined cellar. They form part of a 1.5m Euro project that commemorates Wilfred Owens unique contribution to our understanding of war through his poetry, letters and manuscripts.


The tiny cellar remains untouched, but the 18th-century house above is transformed into a 21st-century sculptural object, its entire red-brick facade painted stark white to resemble bleached bone, the original roof encased and glazed to form a face-down open book.


The gutted interior seems a sanctuary, lined by translucent glass panels etched with fragments of original text from Wilfred Owens best-known and loved works, complete with corrections, scribbles and crossings-out.


The drafts bear testament to the poets struggle
with the barbaric absurdity of war My subject
is War, and the pity of War.


They include lines from Dulce et Decorum Est,
Anthem for Doomed Youth, The Dead Beat, and Spring Offensive; each poem backlit by waves of coloured lights activated by the recorded voice of actor Kenneth Branagh playing inside the room. Devised by British artist and Turner Prize nominee Simon Patterson, working alongside French architect Jean-Christophe Denise, the Foresters House has taken seven years to complete.


It was accomplished through Frances Artconnexion and New Patrons Programme, which gives ordinary people the opportunity to commission an artwork unique to their community.


After 93 years, Wilfred Owens bleak words I am the enemy you killed, my friend continue to carry across borders and speak to nations about the futility of war and the terrible impact warfare still has on the world today.


Lt Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC lies alongside 30 of his fellow soldiers beneath pristine rows of crisp white headstones inside the small War Graves Commission Cemetery at Ors (see below).



Fact Files


Amanda Fisher travelled on the Spirit of Britain, the new 150m ship P&O Ferries added to its fleet earlier
this year, the largest ferry ever built for the Dover-Calais service. Fares from 50 return for a car and up to
nine passengers, 08716 646464


She stayed at the three-star Hotel Beatus, 718 Avenue de Paris, Cambrai, rooms from 69 Euro a night, contact hotel.beatus@wanadoo.fr or +0033 3 27 81 45 70


For all information regarding The Foresters House and places to stay, eat and visit, go to:
kent.greatbritishlife.co.uk and click on Links.






Local Hero



Im not a hero I just went through the war. So Sydney Gillingham, 87, tells Editor Sarah Sturt from his current quarters at the Tunbridge Wells
Care Centre.


The former ships radio officer, born at home in St Stephens Road, Tunbridge Wells in 1924, comes from a farming background but was always mad on the navy, so volunteered at the age of 17 and a half and was called up six months later.


Syd, who served on HMS Deveron, went on to learn morse code in English, German, Italian and Japanese and was so skilled he was able to report back enemy messages he picked up at sea to Bletchley Park. He was also a telegrapher during the planned landings at Omaha beach and his memories of that time still move him to tears.


Getting near to invasion time, I was engaged in collecting the landing craft that were assembled down the coast in various little harbours to take them down the south coast, he tells me.


Then D-Day arrived and for me it was D-Day plus one escorting the landing craft troops and one of the places I went to was Omaha. We embarked from Weymouth, where there was all these American troops going aboad, and they were terrified. The Snowballs the white-helmeted military police reminded me of cattle being herded.


We took them across to Omaha and I shall never forget that, the water full of debris, life jackets and bodies. We had this real camaraderie with the airforce, but coming back one of two Mosquitoes blew up so we picked the pilots body out of the sea. So that was a bit hairy. I was about 19 or 20.


Married to Kathy for 67 years, who is also at the Tunbridge Wells Care Centre, Syd met his wife at a New Years Eve dance in London that had been organised by Kathys father. Once married, he was commissioned for a further two and a half years on HMS Shah that saw service in the Pacific against the Japanese. Syd was awarded the Burma Star for his services in the Far East.


After the war he worked at Scotland Yard in intelligence and upon retiring at 61 joined the RNLI and was district organiser for the south east.

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