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THE KING'S
PILGRIMAGE


PROFITS FROM THE SALE OF THIS BOOK
WILL, BY HIS MAJESTY'S DESIRE, BE
DISTRIBUTED AMONG THE PHILANTHROPIC
ORGANIZATIONS WHICH FOR SOME
TIME HAVE BEEN ASSISTING RELATIVES
TO VISIT THE CEMETERIES ABROAD




"THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE"




[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

"_Standing beneath this cross of sacrifice and facing the great stone of
remembrance_"]




The King's Pilgrimage


London:
Hodder and Stoughton, Limited
1922




_The Imperial War Graves Commission has to acknowledge the permission of
the following for the publication of the photographs which are contained
in this book: Central News Agency, Graphic Photo Union, "Daily Mail,"
Press Photographic Agency, "The Times," Topical Press Agency, Lt.-Col. H.
Ellissen, Mr. F. C. See, Mr. A. H. W. Brown_


PRINTED IN PHOTOGRAVURE
BY
THE SUN ENGRAVING CO., LTD.
LONDON AND WATFORD




BUCKINGHAM PALACE

May 1922.

I am interested to hear of the proposed publication of the record of my
pilgrimage to the War Graves.

It grieves me to think how many relatives are prevented from visiting the
graves of their dear ones through lack of means. During my recent visit to
the Cemeteries in France and Belgium, I was glad to learn that various
organisations are endeavouring to meet this difficulty by raising funds
which I trust will be substantially assisted by the sale of the book.

George R. I.




The King's Pilgrimage

Our King went forth on pilgrimage
His prayer and vows to pay
To them that saved our Heritage
And cast their own away.
And there was little show of pride,
Or prows of belted steel,
For the clean-swept oceans every side
Lay free to every keel.

And the first land he found, it was shoal and banky ground
Where the broader seas begin,
And a pale tide grieving at the broken harbour mouth
Where they worked the Death Ships in:
And there was neither gull on the wing,
Nor wave that could not tell
Of the bodies that were buckled in the lifebuoy's ring
That slid from swell to swell.

(_All that they had they gave - they gave; and they shall not return,
For these are those that have no grave where any heart may mourn._)

And the next land he found, it was low and hollow ground
Where once the cities stood,
But the man-high thistle had been master of it all,
Or the bulrush by the flood;
And there was neither blade of grass
Or lone star in the sky,
But shook to see some spirit pass
And took its agony.

And the next land he found, it was bare and hilly ground
Where once the bread-corn grew,
But the fields were cankered and the water was defiled,
And the trees were riven through;
And there was neither paved highway,
Nor secret path in the wood,
But had borne its weight of the broken clay,
And darkened 'neath the blood.

(_Father and Mother they put aside, and the nearer love also -
An hundred thousand men who died, whose grave shall no man know._)

And the last land he found, it was fair and level ground
Above a carven Stone,
And a stark Sword brooding on the bosom of the Cross
Where high and low are one;
And there was grass and the living trees,
And the flowers of the Spring,
And there lay gentlemen from out of all the seas
That ever called him King.

(_'Twixt Nieuport sands and the eastward lands where the Four Red
Rivers spring
Five hundred thousand gentlemen of those that served the King._)

All that they had they gave - they gave -
In sure and single faith.
There can no knowledge reach the grave
To make them grudge their death
Save only if they understood
That, after all was done
We they redeemed denied their blood,
And mocked the gains it won.

RUDYARD KIPLING.




I: "_Our King went forth on pilgrimage._"


It was our King's wish that he should go as a private pilgrim, with no
trappings of state nor pomp of ceremony, and with only a small suite, to
visit the tombs in Belgium and France of his comrades who gave up their
lives in the Great War. In the uniform which they wore on service, he
passed from one to another of the cemeteries which, in their noble
simplicity, express perfectly the proud grief of the British race in their
dead; and, at the end, within sight of the white cliffs of England, spoke
his thoughts in a message of eloquence which moved all his Empire to
sympathy.

The Governments of France and of Belgium, our allies in the war for the
freedom of the world, respected the King's wish. Nowhere did official
ceremony intrude on an office of private devotion. But nothing could
prevent the people of the country-side gathering around the places which
the King visited, bringing with them flowers, and joining their tribute to
his. They acclaimed him not so much as King, but rather as the head of
those khaki columns which crossed the Channel to help to guard their
homes; in their minds the memory of the glad relief of August, 1914, when
they learnt that the British were with them in the war and felt that the
ultimate end was secure. Many of them were of the peasants who, before the
scattered graves of our dead had been gathered into enduring cemeteries,
had graced them with flowers, making vases of shell-cases gathered from
the battle-fields. The King was deeply moved by their presence, at seeing
them leave for an hour the task of building up their ruined homes and
shattered farms, and coming with pious gratitude to share his homage to
the men who had been faithful to their trust unto death. To those around
him he spoke more than once in thankful appreciation of this good feeling
of the people of France and Belgium. Especially was he pleased to see the
children of the country-side crowd around him, and when little choirs of
them sang "God Save the King" in quaintly accented words his feeling was
manifest.

There came thus to the pilgrimage from the first an atmosphere of
affectionate intimacy between these people who were not his subjects and
the British King. They gathered around him as around a friend, the old
women leaning forward to catch his words, the children trying to come
close enough to touch him, seeing in his uniform again the "Tommy" who had
proved such a gentle soul when he came for a brief rest from the horrors
of the battle-field to the villages behind the line and helped "mother"
with the housework and nursed the baby. At one village a gendarme, feeling
in his official soul that this was really no way to treat a King, tried to
arrange some more formal atmosphere. But in vain. The villagers saw the
old friendly good-humoured British Army back in France, and could not be
official.

Now and then at a cemetery the King met relatives, in some cases from
far-off Pacific Dominions, visiting their dead, and he stopped to speak
with them because they were on the same mission as he was, of gratitude
and reverence. One mother, moved by the kindness of the King's greeting,
opened her heart to him and told, with the simple eloquence of real
feeling, how she had just come from her son's grave and was proud that he
had died for his King and country; that every care had been taken to find
and identify it, and "more could not have been done if it had been the
Prince of Wales himself."

At several points the workers of the Imperial War Graves
Commission - practically all of whom had gone through the campaign, and now
are reverently and carefully tending the last resting-places of their
fallen comrades - assembled to greet the King. He spoke with them also,
giving them thanks for their work and noting their war medals and asking
them about their life in the camps, or with the mobile caravans which, in
the districts where housing cannot yet be found, move from cemetery to
cemetery, keeping fresh the tribute of grass and flowers and
trees - caravans which bring back vividly one's memory of the old British
supply columns, for they are almost invariably led by a small
self-important and well-fed dog.

When at Vlamertinghe - where are the graves of the first Dominion soldiers
who fell in the war - the High Commissioner for Canada, the Hon. P. C.
Larkin, was met visiting the Canadian graves there; the King gave him a
very warm greeting. He showed that there is never absent from his mind the
thought that in the greatest Ordeal of Battle which the British race has
had to pass through, the children nations of his Empire came to the side
of the Mother Country, with the instinctive spontaneity of the blood in a
limb responding to a message from the heart; and that the crimson tie of
kinship never broke nor slackened through all the perilous anxious years.
Across the sea, held for them as a safe path by the Navy, the men of the
Empire - and the women, too - kept passing at the King's word to whatsoever
point at which the peril was greatest, the work most exacting. The graves
of the Flanders battle-fields told triumphantly of this august Imperial
assembly - the dead of the Mother Country having around them those of
India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, the
West Indies, the Pacific Islands.[1] At every point the voices of the dead
bespoke, in the King's words, "the single-hearted assembly of nations and
races which form our Empire."

* * * * *

It was at the close of a State visit to the King of the Belgians that the
King left Brussels on a special train early on the morning of May 11. The
King lived on the train (in his own carriage which had been in France
throughout the war) during the tour, motor-cars meeting it at fixed
halting-places for the visits to the cemeteries. He was accompanied by
Field-Marshal Earl Haig, whom His Majesty specially wished to be at his
side on this pilgrimage. The Royal Party was a small one; in addition to
Lord Haig, it consisted of Major-General Sir Fabian Ware (who, as
Vice-Chairman of the Imperial War Graves Commission, was in charge of all
the arrangements) and of three members of the suite, the Rt. Hon. Sir
Frederick Ponsonby, Colonel Clive Wigram, and Major R. Seymour. The first
visit paid was to Zeebrugge Churchyard, where rest some of those who fell
in the Zeebrugge Battle which marked St. George's Day, 1918. Many of the
graves are still unidentified, but, with the aid of enemy burial lists
recently secured, it is hoped that the identity of some, at any rate, will
be established. There was, by the King's express wish, no formal ceremony
at this nor any other cemetery before Terlincthun, but the school children
of Zeebrugge assembled and sang the British National Anthem and brought
flowers for the graves.

The King went on to examine the scene of the exploit of _Vindictive_ and
her supporting ships. The day was bright and breezy, and, by a happy
chance, a Belgian fishing fleet was making for harbour with the night's
harvest of the sea. To the eye of the sailor this gave clear indication of
the lay of the harbour approaches and of its entrance, and helped
materially to illustrate the way in which the Mole was approached and the
task with which the British naval forces were faced. The King took the
keenest interest in every detail of the exploit and of the tactics
employed. He stayed for some time at the point where the submarine, loaded
with high explosives, rammed the Mole to breach it, with the double object
of cutting off the enemy garrison on the Mole from reinforcements and of
helping the obstacles which were to be sunk in the fairway to silt up the
harbour by letting in the drifting sands. The positions where the ships
were sunk in the fairway were examined, and the King, with his
professional knowledge of the Service in which he spent his young manhood,
could reconstruct the whole battle. He made particular inspection of the
spot where the landing party from _Vindictive_ scaled the Mole - perhaps
the most astonishing "boarding" feat of naval history.

With some reluctance the King turned his back to the sea, and the Royal
party went on by train to Zonnebeke. Here the party left the train and
proceeded by car to visit Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is in the midst of what
was the most desolate and terrible of all battle-fields - the Passchendaele
marshes. Tyne Cot (or cottage) was on the north side of the Ypres-Roulers
railway, near the village of Passchendaele. It was here that the enemy
first built their "pill boxes" or concrete forts. The water-logged ground
would not allow of the construction of dug-outs nor of effective shelter
trenches, and the enemy sought to hold their line with these strong points
of reinforced concrete, heavily armed with machine guns, to attack which
the British storming infantry often had to wade waist-deep in mire up to
the very muzzles of the guns.

No part of the long trench line which stretched from the sea to
Switzerland has such shuddering memories for the British Army as
Passchendaele. There it had the problem of storming a whole series of
miniature Zeebrugge Moles standing in seas of slimy mud, to sink into
which from the narrow built paths of trench-boards was to perish. Of the
nine thousand British soldiers buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, over six
thousand are "unknown." The hateful mud swallowed up their identity with
their lives.

Many places on the long trench line which stretched like a dreadful scar
across Belgium and France the King knew during the days of the war. Very
jealously the secrets of his visits to the Front had to be guarded then,
especially when both the King and the Heir Apparent were at the same time
in the battle-line; and no public record exists of them. But it is safe to
say that Tyne Cot he saw for the first time this May afternoon. He
understood how appalling was the task which his soldiers faced there, and,
turning to the great "pill box" which still stands in the middle of the
cemetery, he said that it should never be moved, should remain always as a
monument to the heroes whose graves stood thickly around. From its roof he
gazed sadly over the sea of wooden crosses, a "massed multitude of silent
witnesses to the desolation of war." It is indeed fitting that this should
form, as it will, the foundation for the great Cross of Sacrifice shortly
to be built up as a central memorial in this cemetery.


[Illustration: ZEEBRUGGE

ARRIVAL AT THE MOLE]


[Illustration: ZEEBRUGGE

INSPECTING THE MOLE]


[Illustration: ZEEBRUGGE

AT THE BREACH IN THE MOLE]


[Illustration: ZEEBRUGGE CHURCHYARD

INSPECTING BRITISH GRAVES]


[Illustration: AT BRANDHOEK MILITARY CEMETERY.]


[Illustration: TYNE COT CEMETERY

THE KING AND THE GARDENERS]


[Illustration: TYNE COT CEMETERY]


[Illustration: TYNE COT CEMETERY

THE KING READING INSCRIPTIONS ON WOODEN CROSSES]


[Illustration]


[Illustration: TYNE COT CEMETERY

INSPECTING THE GERMAN BLOCKHOUSE WHICH WILL FORM THE BASE OF THE CENTRAL
MEMORIAL]


[Illustration: YPRES TOWN CEMETERY

THE GRAVE OF H.H. PRINCE MAURICE OF BATTENBERG]


[Illustration: YPRES TOWN CEMETERY]


[Illustration: MENIN GATE, YPRES

EXAMINING THE PLANS FOR THE MEMORIAL TO THOSE WHO HAVE NO KNOWN GRAVE]


[Illustration: VLAMERTINGHE MILITARY CEMETERY]


[Illustration: VLAMERTINGHE MILITARY CEMETERY

THE BURGOMASTER'S DAUGHTER PRESENTING A WREATH]


[Illustration:

_Our King went forth on pilgrimage
His prayer and vows to pay
To them that saved our heritage
And cast their own away._]


[Illustration: "_I have been on a solemn pilgrimage in honour of a people
who died for all free men_"]




II: "_It was low and hollow ground where once the cities stood_"


The King's route after leaving Tyne Cot Cemetery brought him to the
salient where the British Army held Ypres as the gate guarding the Channel
ports. The enemy rush to Paris had failed, and he was seeking a way to
victory by a rush to seize the French side of the English Channel as a
prelude to the invasion of England. In the first Battle of Ypres the enemy
sought with enormous superiority of numbers to overwhelm the British force
which barred the Calais Road. To hold Ypres was vital, and yet Ypres was,
humanly speaking, indefensible, within a saucer-shaped salient dominated
on three sides by the German artillery.

The attack was pushed on with fierce energy from October 21st, 1914,
onwards, and was met with heroic stubbornness by a woefully thin khaki
line. At one stage there was no question of reliefs. Every man practically
in the British Force, including cooks and batmen, was in the front line,
and these men held to the trenches day after day, night after night,
without sleep, with little food, with no intermission from rifle and shell
fire.

During the second Battle of Ypres, in the spring of 1915, the war took on
a new phase with the enemy use of asphyxiating gas as a weapon. Of this
odious and unexpected form of warfare the Canadians were the first
victims, but withstood the surprise with a cool heroism which saved the
day.

There were other battles of Ypres, and all the land around was saturated
with the blood of heroes. So this "low and hollow ground," stiffened with
our dead, is holy soil to the British race. The King chose fitly to render
there his homage to the dead of the Belgian Army who on the Yser held the
left flank of the line through all the years of bitter fighting for Ypres.

On his way to the Menin Gate of Ypres city, the King directed the cars to
turn aside to the Town Cemetery, that he might stand silent for a few
moments by the graves of Prince Maurice of Battenberg, Lord Charles
Mercer-Nairne, Major the Hon. W. Cadogan, and other officers, some of
those of his own personal friends whom the war claimed, and whose graves
lie among those of their men, marked by the same simple memorials.

* * * * *

Ypres to-day is no longer a mass of shell-shattered ruins. The work of
reconstruction has been carried on earnestly, and thousands of new houses
have been built. But nothing can ever restore the mediæval beauty of the
city which grew like a noble wood in carved stone on the Flanders Plain.
The ruins of the Cloth Hall will remain as the monument of the old city
which was once a world's capital for those who wove wool into fine cloth.
The old ramparts at the Menin Gate - stout walls which provided security
for the British signallers even in the most furious bombardments - will
remain as another monument, an effective symbol of the British Army at
Ypres, very sorely battered, but still holding secure.

It is proposed by the Imperial War Graves Commission that at the Menin
Gate there should be a memorial to those of the Empire's Armies who fell
in this area but have no known graves. It will crown these ramparts with a
great double arch, enclosing a vaulted hall, in which will be recorded the
names of all those lost in the neighbouring battle-fields whose bodies
have not been recovered and identified. The design provides that the arch
facing Menin, where once the foe was drawn up, will be surmounted by the
great figure of a lion alert in defence, the arch facing Ypres by some
other symbolical sculpture.

* * * * *

The King was met at the Menin Gate by representatives of the Belgian
Government and Army, by Major Michelet and M. Lorel of the Belgian Graves
Services, and by the Burgomaster of Ypres. The industrious re-builders of
Ypres paused from their work for an hour and assembled to give him a
hearty greeting. The King entrusted a chaplet of palms and bay leaves with
a spray of red roses in memory of the Belgian dead to Major Michelet. He
then congratulated the Burgomaster on the progress his citizens were
making with the work of reconstruction. Sir Reginald Blomfield, architect
of the memorial at the Menin Gate, submitted to the King the designs and
plans of the monument. His Majesty emphasised the need that the names
inscribed should be clear to all to read.

* * * * *

Leaving the Menin Gate, the King passed by the ruins of the Cloth Hall and
of the Cathedral, noting the irreparable loss to the world through the
destruction of these magnificent examples of Flemish architecture. It was
observed that the drivers found it somewhat difficult to find a way
through the new Ypres which is growing up under the industrious hands of
the Belgian population. Ypres, the "Museum City" of 1914, is known to
many. The "Wipers" of 1918, a tumble of desolation through which the
soldiers passed under constant shell fire by burrowed paths, became
familiar to almost every British regiment. But this new, re-building Ypres
is a stranger.

The route of the pilgrimage went from Ypres to Vlamertinghe, passing on
the way the British cemetery behind Ypres Reservoir, the Asylum British
Cemetery, the cemetery on the Dickebusch Road, and the Railway Château
Cemetery. At Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery the King stopped and, as has
already been noted, visited the Canadian graves with the High Commissioner
for Canada, as well as paying his tribute to the many British buried
there. This cemetery, between Poperinghe and Ypres, was begun by the
French troops, then holding part of the line here. It contains 1,114
graves of British soldiers, 52 of Canadian, 4 of Australian, 2 of South
African, 2 of soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, one of an
Indian soldier, and one of an unknown soldier. Very many of the British
graves are of Territorial dead. There are, for example, nearly 250
Lancashire Territorials buried there: those splendid men who proved, both
in Gallipoli and France, that the town-bred population of the Mother
Country was fit, in courage and endurance, to rank with the historic
regiments of the line and with the young giants from the Oversea
Dominions.

* * * * *

From Vlamertinghe, along the granite-set roads which were for years
pounded by our ammunition wagons and supply trains, but the dust arising
from which now proclaims the works of peace as the country-folk drive
their carts loaded with bricks and timber for re-building, the King went
on to the Hop Store Cemetery, greeted everywhere with cordial sympathy.
Hop Store village was used from time to time as headquarters both by our
heavy artillery and by our field ambulances. The site of the cemetery is
on a marshy patch of ground, but it was drained by the Royal Engineers
early in 1917, and recently a moat has been constructed on three sides. It
holds 247 of our dead.

From Hop Store the King went on to Brandhoek, which was a comparatively
safe area during the war, and therefore a post for field ambulances. The
old Military Cemetery, which the King visited, was opened in May, 1915, in
a field adjoining the Dressing Station, and was closed in July, 1917. It
shelters the bodies of 601 soldiers from the Home Country, 62 from Canada,
4 from Australia, and 2 of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps. In July,
1917, the Military Cemetery was opened 300 yards away, and in August,
1917, a third cemetery was opened.

Poperinghe was next visited. This agricultural town on the road between
Ypres and Hazebrouck, situated among hopfields and dairy farms, was a
haven of rest in the early days of the war. Although occasionally
bombarded at long range, it was the nearest town to Ypres which was
reasonably safe. It was at first a casualty clearing station centre.
Later, in 1916, when shell fire increased, it was decided to move back the
casualty clearing station to a safer zone, and Poperinghe became a field
ambulance station. The earliest British graves at Poperinghe are in the
Communal Cemetery, a walled graveyard at the entrance to the town. The
old Military Cemetery was made in the course of the first Battle of Ypres,
and was closed (so far as British burials were concerned) in May, 1915.
The New Military Cemetery was made in June, 1915. It contains the graves
of 596 soldiers from the Home Country, 55 from Canada, 20 from Australia,
3 from New Zealand, and 2 of the British West Indies Regiment.

Lijssenthoek was the last of the cemeteries on Belgian soil visited. This
cemetery is at Remy Siding, on the south side of the Hazebrouck-Ypres
railway line, between Poperinghe and Abeele. The site was first used for
burials by a French military hospital, and there is a group of French


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