Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Weekend in Flanders - a history project

Spatial Worlds website
Lille, France: N: 50º 38.322' E: 003º 04.478'
Amiens, Belgium: N: 49º 53.506' E: 002º 18.561'
Merris, Flanders: N: 51º 42.940' E: 002º 39.644'

Before heading back to Australia I caught the Eurostar train to Lille and then a train to Amiens. What an amazing change has happened in Europe since I last visited in 1976. No seasickness on the ferry but just a two hour comfortable train trip. Also no passport required between countries once you enter Europe and all the same currency - amazing co-operation and a real irony when one considers the European conflicts over the centuries. Naturally I took the GPS to Flanders so that I can incorporate some lat/longs into the war memoir of my Great Uncle and try to develop some battlefield activities for my history classes. I got to the Menin Gate in Ypres on the evening of Nov 10th which was a very moving ceremony with bugles, bands, bagpipes and wreath laying. On the 11th I visited my Grandfathers brothers grave in the La Kreule War Cemetery (near Merris) which has been unvisited since his death 89 years. His story to war is the basis of my book 'Closer to the Cannon's mouth' which is used in Australian schools and in the Australian War Memorial. It was a very moving experience to put some poppies on his grave in the pouring rain, with a bighting cold wind in the middle of a French potato field. What an incredible waste of humanity it all was. The War Graves are immaculate, with a register in each to sign by visitors. Only two Australians had visited La Kreule over the past twelve months but there are hundreds of cemeteries sprinkled all through this area of northern France and Flanders. While visiting the battlefields it became increasingly obvious that some GIS mapping would be an ideal classroom activity to show troop movements and battle stages. Go to my website and download a battlefield GIS exercise I have written to use with students studying the Great War.

I really enjoyed France and Belgium for the short time I was there and must go back. Great old churches, small cobbled streets and the beautiful French countryside(even if wet, muddy and cold) Needless to say my French was a disaster and makes one realise what a handicap it is to be monolingual. It was also much cheaper to travel in France than in England, so the dollar went a bit further with the Euro.
Anyway, one more day in London and then home!

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