Burial of ten German soldiers and the Official Reopening of Langemarck Soldatenfriedhof 2.30pm Friday 16th October 2015
At 2.30pm on Friday 16th October 2015 the German military cemetery at Langemarck was officially reopened and at the same time the remains of ten German soldiers, nine of whom were named, and one unknown, were buried in the collective grave. The appearance of the cemetery has returned to that of its appearance in the 1930s. When you walk through the entrance portal you are greeted by a wall and can turn either right of left to enter the cemetery. The central feature of the wall of names remains in place but the four figures have returned to the centre piece and are now on the other side of the new all looking into the cemetery. Although the sombre feeling remains the cemetery felt ‘lighter’ to me and far less oppressive than before. A good crowd of dignitaries, locals and general visitors arrived to watch the proceedings. A large marquee was erected facing the collective grave to house the invited guests, headed by His Excellency Rüdiger Lüdeking, German Ambassador to Belgium, accompanied by Markus Meckel the President of the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsbräberfürosrge (the German CWGC) and members of the German army. The Mayor of Langemarck-Poelkapelle led the local dignitaries that included the various layers of Flemish government representatives and the head of the Belgian Army in Flanders was in attendance. Ian Hussein represented the CWGC and representatives of the British Government, TOC H and the Canadian British Legion were present. No commemoration in Belgium is complete without a good selection of speeches. They went on a little longer than many would have wished and were, in many parts, repetitive. The speeches were interspersed by a group of four young children who played ‘Ode To Joy’, others who read a poem and then laid a white rose in a barrel of a rifle that had been arranged in the corner of the collective grave. It was rounded off by the local school singing a song, all of whom performed very well. Many a parent could be spotted with a proud, huge smile! A short religious ceremony was held with the coffins being blessed before the two sets of five coffins had the German national flag that was draped over them removed by four soldiers. A ladder led down to the catacomb below in which two senior soldiers in combats had descended prior to the beginning of the ceremonies. A soldier carefully took one small cardboard coffin and took it to the entrance of the catacomb and passed it to the men below. They carefully stacked them underground, one by one, until all had been safely delivered. Once the committals had taken place the wreath laying began that began with His Excellency Rüdiger Lüdeking and ended with Markus Meckel. A drum was played throughout the wreath laying and then a trumpeter played 'Ich hatt einen Kameraden'. A member of Field Marshal Haig’s Own Pipe and Drums then played 'Flowers of the Forest'. Finally the Belgian Army Band played ‘Ode To Joy’
followed by the German and Belgian National Anthems. No event in Belgium would be complete without a social event, and this was no exception. A reception was held afterwards in “Den Tap” in Langemarck.
Forget Me Not
Due to its name, the forget me no is an international symbol of remembrance as well as a loving last farewell, coupled with the expression of a desire to stay in the minds of loved ones. In many languages, it is called the same name wit the same meaning. Numerous poems and songs have been written about this flower. The ‘blue flower’ is a well known motif in German romanticism. It stands for longing and love. It is also an expression of the pursuit of perfection, as well as the futility of the hum search for perfect happiness.
At the beginning of the First World War, many young war volunteers romanticised and glorified the personal sacrifice for their respective countries, as yet unaware of modern weaponry and its gruesome consequences. The self knowledge symbolised by the ‘blue flower’ of romanticism is a deeply individual motif. From today’s perspective, its use as a flower of remembrance counterpoints the merciless mass carnage during the First World War.