Paying Respect: a Pilgrimage to France and Belgium in 1926

GowerReesChannelFerry

Rev. A.P. Gower-Rees, his wife Sarah and daughters Mary & Joan returning to England after visiting France and Belgium in 1926

Hull Daily Mail, 17 Oct 1922

Hull Daily Mail, 17 Oct 1922

In the aftermath of the Great War many families made a pilgrimage to the battlefields and cemeteries of France and Belgium, including the family of Rev. A.P. Gower-Rees, a former Deputy Assistant Chaplain-General and an out-spoken supporter of ex-Servicemen frustrated by an increasingly apathetic post-war public.

Strong convictions aside Gower-Rees and his family had a very personal reason for making their journey across the Channel in August 1926. The Reverend’s wife, Sarah Emily Atkinson-Jowett lost her step-brother Lt. James Atkinson-Jowett of the 6th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on September 16, 1916.

Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm)

Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm)

Their photographic account, which I’m sharing in its entirety, is a fascinating look at two countries in the process of rebuilding while servicing an ever growing battlefield tourism industry. Over a three day period the Gower-Rees family visit the Sunken Road, near the location where “Uncle Jim” was killed in action, as well as half a dozen memorials and cemeteries including Perth (China Wall), Wimereux and Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm).

Accompanying the photos are hand-written captions likely penned by one of the Gower-Rees girls. Ranking high amongst the collection of very interesting photographs has to be the boy and dog-powered Belgian cart parked outside a hotel on the Market Square in Ypres.

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2 replies

  1. Thank you, Steve, for a most informative and poignant posting. I know one of the most moving portions of the trip I made to Europe last June with my grandson was our visit to Arras and to the Vimy Memorial. It was so quiet and peaceful–hard to imagine “where the larks still bravely singing fly, scarce heard amidst the guns below”. How I wish everyone could make such a journey to understand the sacrifice and yet the enormous futility of war.

    I look forward to future postings.

    • Hi Louise,

      Thanks very much for your comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I made my first visit to Flanders in 1983 and it made a distinct impression on me. It’s unfortunate that so many Canadians are unable to make the trip. My girlfriend’s mother lost her father in the final days of the Second World War and she had to wait nearly 40 years to make her one and only visit to his grave in the Netherlands.

      Thanks again,
      Steve

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