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. 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. 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. Those who could not be saved were buried by their brothers in arms in make-shift 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. 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 years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”
In 1920 the war reporter, Philip Gibbs – who had himself witnessed Third Ypres – wrote 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."
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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