In the afternoon we also visited the area around the village of Gheulvelt where the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) halted the German advance in October 1914. The 2nd Gordon Highlanders defended the cross roads east of the village. Lieutenant James Anson Ortho Brooke was a 30-year-old Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. On the 29th of October 1914, Lieutenant Brooke led two attacks on the German trenches under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, regaining a lost trench at a critical moment, Lieutenant Brooke prevented the enemy from breaking through the British line at a time when a general counter-attack could not have been organised. Having regained the lost trench, he went back to bring up supports and while doing so was killed. Lieutenant Brooke was posthumously promoted to Captain (effective September 1914) and given the Victoria Cross the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen, his home city. He is buried at Zantvoorde British Cemetery, Zonnebeke, near Ypres Belgium which we visited and paid our respects.
It was during this action on the 29th October 1914 that our great-uncle Donald who served with the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, 20th Brigade, 7th Division was also killed, he was 21-years-old. He has no known grave and is remembered on The Menin Gate Memorial.
That evening we attended the 8pm Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. The gate bears the name of 54,896 soldiers killed in the Salient who have no known grave including those of our two uncles.
The memorial is located at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. The Memorial opened in 1927 and since then the citizens of Ypres have expressed their gratitude to those who had given their lives for Belgium’s freedom by closing the road which passes under the memorial every evening and buglers from the local fire brigade sound the Last Post at 8pm.
We had the opportunity to lay a wreath in their memory and although it was an emotional and somewhat nerve-racking moment (we where the only people laying a wreath on that particular evening so all eyes on us) it was a huge honour for my brother and I and something we will never forget.