“I’M still there, so to speak – still getting over it.”
That was the verdict of Redditch resident Philip Jarvis who was the sole representative from the town to join the emotional and historic GP90 memorial gathering at the Menin Gate in Ypres last week.
The event marked the 90th anniversary of the Great Pilgrimage of 1928 when wives, families and old soldiers travelled to northern France and Belgium to visit the battlefields of the First World War and see the places were their loved ones fought and fell.
Among them all those years ago was Philip’s father, Kenneth, a survivor of the carnage on the Somme in 1916, who went out to find the grave of his brother Philip who was killed in 1917 fighting for King and Country.
Ninety years on, the Royal British Legion organised a second visit – bringing more than 2,000 members across the Channel, and the cameras chose to focus on Philip as he followed in his father’s footsteps.
The Webheath resident took with him the newly consecrated standard of the Redditch branch of the RBL which, carried by a member of the Ypres branch of the Legion, joined the forest of banners which took part in the parade.
“The whole thing was very well organised,” said Philip.
“We visited various locations and we had an excellent guide, someone who specialised in the Battle of the Somme.
“We also visited the Canadian memorial at Vimy and were told that harvest time over there is still called ‘the iron harvest’ because of the amount of unexploded shells they continue to dig up.”
Philip was also taken to the grave of his uncle where he laid a poppy cross before returning to Ypres for the march to the Menin Gate where he laid a wreath on behalf of Redditch Royal British Legion.
“The local people were all there, applauding and taking videos; it was very moving to think my father had done exactly the same thing 90 years before on exactly the same day.”