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The Prince of Wales today delivered a passionate speech honouring those who died for King and Country in the battle of Passchendaele on the Western Front a century ago.
In a deeply moving address at the Passchendaele service at Tyne Cot cemetery in Belgium, Prince Charles recalled the “courage and the bravery” of our men who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the devastating “third battle of Ypres” in World War One.
Charles said, “One hundred years ago today the Third Battle of Ypres began.
“At ten to four in the morning, less than five miles from here, thousands of men drawn from across Britain, France and the Commonwealth attacked German lines.
“The battle we know today as Passchendaele would last for over one hundred days.
“We remember it not only for the rain that fell, the mud that weighed down the living and swallowed the dead, but also for the courage and bravery of the men who fought here.
“The advance was slow and every inch was hard fought. The land we stand upon was taken two months into the battle by the 3rd Australian Division.
He went on, “It would change hands twice again before the end of the war.
“In 1922 my great grandfather, King George V, came here as part of a pilgrimage to honour all those who died in the First World War,” he said.
The Battle of Passchendaele took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian City of Ypres in West Flanders.
“Whilst visiting Tyne Cot he stood before the pillbox that this Cross of Sacrifice has been built upon, a former German stronghold that had dominated the ridge.
“Once taken by the Allies, the pillbox became a forward aid post to treat the wounded,” the prince said.
“Those who could not be saved were buried by their brothers in arms in makeshift graves; these became the headstones that are before us today.
“After the end of the war almost twelve thousand graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers were brought here from surrounding battlefields.
Charles concluded, “Today a further thirty four thousand men, who could not be identified or whose bodies were never found have their names inscribed on the memorial.
“Thinking of these men, my great grandfather remarked: “I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the year to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”
Charles also quoted war reporter, Philip Gibbs – who had himself witnessed Third Ypres who wrote about the battle in 1920.
Charles quotes Gibbs saying that “nothing that has been written is more than the pale image of the abomination of those battlefields, and that no pen or brush has yet achieved the picture of that Armageddon in which so many of our men perished.”
Charles concluded, “Drawn from many nations we come together in their resting place, cared for with such dedication by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to commemorate their sacrifice and to promise that we will never forget.”
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