A fitting reminder

Speaker Jennifer Ray with Club Vice President Joe Hinchliffe at the Probus Club of Cleveleys
Speaker Jennifer Ray with Club Vice President Joe Hinchliffe at the Probus Club of Cleveleys
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Nearly 40 members of the Probus Club of Cleveleys were moved when local historian Jennifer Ray described a very personal journey she made along the Western Front of the First World War.

Inspired by a photograph of Uncle Charlie that had graced the wall of their home, she, and award-winning photographer husband Phil, were determined to trace the last resting place of a relative who lost his life in Flanders aged 18 in 1918.

That journey took them along hundreds of miles of the Western Front, stretching from the west coast of Belgium to the border of Switzerland.

As they visited the sites of successive battles we were reminded of the staggering loss of life experienced along this front in the space of scarcely four years.

At Verdun, the French and Germans together lost 300,000 men in 299 days of fighting, while over a million casualties were suffered on both sides in the Battle of the Somme.

These numbers were graphically brought to life when we were shown the poignant photographs of the national cemeteries they visited. Many members were surprised by the number of nations joining the allies including lesser known contributions from Portugal, Morocco and Algeria.

We were also overwhelmed to learn that more than a million Indian men came from the sub-continent to fight alongside their European brothers.

Jennifer and Phil eventually found Uncle Charlie and became the first of his family to visit his grave.

Nearly all club members had been influenced in some way by the Great War, and Jennifer’s talk was a fitting reminder in the month of Remembrance Sunday.

New members welcome and membership is open to professional and businessmen who have retired.

Call Derek Timms on (01253) 872306.

Tony Ward, Probus Club of Cleveleys