War is about people, about war zones, war comes across countries.
Until August 1914 Flanders Fields was a sleepy rural area.
Everyone thought the war would soon blow over.
From September onwards the first German mounted scouts were
spotted. The ‘Uhlans’ as they were called roamed about all over
the region in small groups, far ahead of the army troops.
Fear was increasing rapidly and the population began to flee.
After the fall of Antwerp on 10th October 1914 massive troops arrived
at the Western Front. The Belgians settled along the Yser, the French and the British in Ypres.
The French and the British mobilized officers and men from their colonial territory overseas. In October 1914 West African skirmishers and North African cavalry fought in battle. In the same period the British launched Indian troops. Chinese were used as labourers behind the front. The Chinese Labour Corpse stayed on the Western Front until the end of 1919 to clean the battle fields and bury the dead.
During the war music has always played an important role. In the Scottish regiments you could hear ‘the pipes’: the big bagpipes which were indispensable in times of war. They not only played during the attack, gathering and retreat of the army but also at bedtime and to commemorate major events. In ‘The Bloody Fields of Flanders’ piper John McLellan recalled the battles near Pilkem and Poelcapelle. Pipe Major John Spoore wrote ‘The Burning Mill at Messines’ in commemoration of the Battle of Messines. The fact that bagpipers marched along the front lines during battles had major consequences. In this way ten thousands of ‘weeping women in hell’ – as the Germans called them – died in the First World War.
On the eleventh of the eleventh month at eleven o’clock in the morning the guns fell silent for ever. The soldiers went home, relieved and tired.
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