It was with a welcome return to unrestricted travel that Touring Group members gathered in Kent for an overnight stay before the pilgrimage to France and Belgium. With Ian and Maria having gone out from Newhaven the day before the others enjoyed an evening in Ashford prior to their early departure for France on Eurotunnel.
A fairly early crossing the next morning saw the group arrive in Calais only to find that the tail end of the group had missed the shuttle and were put on the next one.
Once all assembled they set off to travel to Annouellin and College Albert Ball. A coffee stop and traffic hold ups set their timings back somewhat but this did not diminish the welcome upon their arrival at the college. Ian, Maria and Rudi Accou ( our valuable friend) had been at the college for a couple of hours and had been engaging with the schoolchildren for that time.
Once all the MOGS were safely parked up with an exclusion zone around us a mass of children came into the playground to look at the vehicles. We had them sat in our cars, starting the engines and generally had a great time of course the teachers were involved too.
Then it was time for lunch and this was provided in the school canteen with some pupils in attendance too. This was, as usual an excellent meal, lots of well cooked and presented food and enjoyed by all.
We then walked, along with the teachers and 12 chosen pupils to the cemetary at the other end of town. Here we laid wreaths, several children recited poems they had written and we paid our respects to Capt. Albert Ball VC. It was as ever a moving moment.
So, we walked back to the college, enjoyed refreshments and were given a little present each which had been done by the children.
We cannot emphasise enough the friendliness from everyone, Teachers and children alike, it was a pleasure to be there. Then it was time for departure, with one last photo in front of an Albert Ball mural in the playground. We were waved off at the school gates by an enthusiastic group of teachers/pupils.
Off we went, next stop Ypres in Belgium, our base for the next few days. The journey was made in little over an hour and it was not long before the beers were on the table !
Dinner was enjoyed in the hotel restaurant that evening.
Saturday morning and after a leisurely breakfast the group assembled by their MOGS for the days activities.
Ypres is at the heart of WW1 battleground activities, we drove out to Hill 60 one of many hills that were fought for so fiercely by both sides in WW1, it was a very touching visit.
So far we had only had one U Turn from Red Leader thankfully and our next stop was The Hooge Crater Museum and lunch.
This was a really interesting museum with an excellent café for lunch. We were joined by Koen Audenaert and partner Karen in their lovely grey M3W ( they have four M3W, YES four) We enjoyed a lovely discussion over lunch and they agreed to help us plan the 2023 Albert Ball trip in the Ghent region where they live. Some driving will be done in the beautiful region of nearby Zeeland, Holland. This will be spectacular scenery as there are numerous island all linked by road bridges.
After a rather long lunch we carried on to visit a sculpture, Coming World Remember Me, a very moving memorial to all those who died in WW1.
A short drive saw us back to the hotel and a couple of Belgian beers !
Saturday evening we were all walking into Ypres for the ceremony at The Menen Gate which takes place at 8pm in the evening. Ian Brett, Mark Henry and Ross were laying an Albert Ball wreath during the ceremony and a very moving ceremony it was too. A Belgian band with bagpipes, The Last Post. What a memorable occasion.
Chris had arranged dinner in a nearby restaurant so we walked there and had an enjoyable evening. The half hour walk/stagger back to the hotel was interesting.
Sunday morning and another leisurely breakfast with a slightly later departure time for the days activities.
Led by Rudi in his Morgan Four Wheeler we visited the extremely interesting vehicle collections of two of Rudi’s friends. Old Jags, tractors, steam engines etc, a really interesting couple of visits and very welcoming people, so friendly and willing to talk.
We then set off, led by Red Leader Chris for the coast, De Panne was the destination. Quite where he got the route from goodness only knows. It started off fine until we got to the coast road when we came across a Route Barree sign, to most people this means Road Closed so you find another route. Not Chris ! he ignored the signs and for mile after mile we drove on dismembered road surfaces with the surface so bad Peter Brown stopped several times for a wee !
Eventually we arrived shaken and stirred in De Panne, on a lovely sunny day it was packed with holidaymakers enjoying the sun. We found an excellent café for lunch, Croque Monsieur was my choice !
The next stop off was the interesting OldTimer Motor Museum at Bossaert. An interesting stop off and even an F Type in the display.
A short run took us back to Ypres.
Dinner was in the hotel restaurant.
Monday morning and another leisurely breakfast, some headed for the UK and home, others set off for Bruges for a few days for some Chocolate and Beer !
All agreed it had been another excellent Albert Ball Trip. Thanks to all involved and Chris Golding as lead organiser.