The band of 1084 (Market Harborough) Squadron ATC returned to Poperinge and Ypres (Belgium) over the weekend of March 20 to 23 and the 32 cadets played on four occasions during their visit.
On Friday evening the band played a Sunset Ceremony outside Talbot House in Poperinge before driving to Ypres where they marched from the town square to take part in the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. Here they played for the large crowd before the start of the Last Post Ceremony and during the wreath laying ceremony. FS Sophie Weston (18 from Billesdon) laid a wreath on behalf of the Squadron and Flight Lieutenant John Standish spoke the Words of Remembrance and laid a wreath on behalf of Market Harborough Royal British Legion. The band played the National Anthem at the end of the ceremony before marching through the Arch to a large round of applause from the watching crowd and then back to the town centre.
On Sunday squadron trumpeters played Last Post and laid a wreath at Tynecot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the World.
After lunch the band played in a 3-hour Carnival extravaganza through the streets of Poperinge. Cadet Stephanie Ziolkoska (age 13 from Market Harborough) said “The carnival was amazing; it was great to be able to play in such a fun environment. I am looking forward to going back next year”
When the band was not playing the cadets visited 1st War battlefields, bunkers, trenches and cemeteries in the Ypres Salient. These included soldiers who were ‘shot at dawn’, the grave of Noel Chavasse who won the VC and Bar in WW1 and Langemark German cemetery.
Cadets placed remembrance crosses on the graves of local soldiers in the cemeteries they visited. One cadet commented “I was shocked as to how so many people could die like that and the number of graves of unknown soldiers’
The weekend had its lighter moments, and as well as the carnival the cadets enjoyed a lively disco and games evenings organised by the staff.
Flight Lieutenant Valerie Smith, CO of the squadron commented. “This was our 13th visit and the cadets learned a lot about WW1 through the guide’s explanations at the battlefields and cemeteries. I was very proud of the way the band performed particularly at the Menin Gate”
1. Menin Gate. Commemorates the names of 54,900 names of soldiers with no known grave. The local firemen have played the Last Post ceremony here every night, apart from World War 2, since 1929 as a tribute to all the soldiers who passed through the gate during the 1st War and never returned.
2. Tynecot Cemetery. Contains 11,986 graves and a memorial wall with the names of 33,700 soldiers with no known grave.
3. Langemark Cemetery. Contains the graves of 44,294 German soldiers including 24,834 buried in a mass grave.