It was still hot and the cloudless 32° Celsius usually were the proper reason not to exit the car without the need of doing so. Anyway, Tyne Cot Cemetery near Zonnebeke within the area of Paschendale / Passchendaele was next on our map. As I wrote in one of my last posts there is no change of preparing for the mental impact of those WW1-burial grounds, but Tyne Cot sets a new mark and even raises the bar simply because of its dimensions: 11965 burials from which 8369 are unnamed and a huge memorial for the missing - the walls surrounding the back part of the site - will make you shudder.
After parking the car we first went into the visitor center which was - fortunately - air-conditioned and witnessed many items from The Great War. While we walked there, we heard many names coming straight from the nowhere. To be more precise, camouflaged speakers reading the names of the fallen (and buried) soldiers accompanied our way straight to the visitor center where those were supported by showing the photos associated to the names on different screens.
In this visitor center you can merely grab history - tools, ammunition, personal belongings, letters and condolence notes witnesses the life and death within The Great War. It‘s a strange and quite eerie aura while you see those personal stuff which nowadays is a relict of a time where mankind finally stepped into the great darkness. While we made our way round within the centre, I felt that I was deeply moved step by step, artifact by artifact, name by name. It‘s difficult to really understand all this with the simple, human mind and even if I though to have grasped some aspects, I am sure that no one who hasn‘t participated in the madness that once took place here can feel, imagine and understand the atrocities which happened during these times.
After leaving the visitor center you’ll make your way around Tyne Cot Cemetery, seeing golden Flanders Fields everywhere. Also here the human mind begins to understand that everything that is located around this place is a peaceful part of the landscape, being used for farming nowadays. Turning the wheel of time back slightly more than a century, this landscape was a synonym for a bombed wasteland with thousands and thousands of deads. Quite hard to grasp, too.
Once we walked this path of memories, we finally stood in front of the cemetery’s entrance, not mentioning that the dimensions of this burial ground are indeed as impressive as horrible. Walking around the cemetery from the visitor center on shows you how big this site is. Besides, the complexity of its architecture as well as the numerous tombstones may push a human mind to all of it extents. Once you stand at the main gate and have surrounded half of the site, this impression is just fortified - nothing can prepare you for this view. I even had the chance to use a drone to shoot some pictures from Tyne Cot from up above, seeing the whole complex from aerial view - something that makes you shudder once again.
Enter through the main gate, leave your condolence wishes and your name as a sign of respect in the visitor's book and try to understand the meaning of this site. While there are fields full of crop all around and the wonderful Belgian landscape, memories of the past coming up are the complete opposite: Over a century ago, this place and all the space around must have been equal to the depths of hell, the end of human civilization in a barbaric and cruel war that was fought to "end all wars".
It was never that simple and the masses of graves, the spirits of the brave men who paid the highest price for a greater good and the wall filled with names of those whose bodies were never found proof this. Tyne Cot is not only a place of simple remembrance, it is a sign of warning for mankind although we never seem to learn anything. Sit down under the trees, shadowed by the Cross of Sacrifice and breathe the spirits that gather here and - by all means - pay the respect which these brave soldiers lying here deserve. There are few places on this planet that can create such an emotional turmoil, but Tyne Cot will touch your soul straight to its core!
Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery was the third chapter of my trip throughout Flanders Fields in the summer holidays of July 2019. According to my opinion, it is the ultimate proof for the human demise and fail that is found in Belgium and a place where the usual life we all live day by day takes a respectful rest. Besides, it is a place where everyone of us should pay respect to the people and soldiers who fought in a war that is so distant and still so near nowadays. Hold your breath, take off your cap or hat and pay respect to the heroes of The Great War, even if the fortune of war prevented them from being buried besides their comrades. History is never gone, history will never be „just“ the past: Tyne Cot is the ideal but also touching memorial for that.