On our last morning we took some time to look around our accommodation Talbot House in Poperinge before heading into Ieper (Yprès).
The town of Poperinge was one of the nearest safe towns behind the front lines and for this reason was used a base to billet troops before heading to the Front. The British Army rented a property in the town in 1915 where Army Chaplain Rev. Philip “Tubby” Clayton set up a club for soldiers to use for rest and recuperation regardless of rank. A sign at the door declared “All rank abandon, ye who enter here”. The house was filled with donated furniture, including a piano, and books for the library. To borrow a book you left your cap badge to ensure the book would be returned before leaving. The house was named Talbot House in memory of 23 year old Gilbert Talbot who was killed in action in July 1915 and is buried in nearby Sanctuary Wood Cemetery.
Today the property is both a living museum and also provides B&B accommodation. The upper floor is still maintained as a chapel today, just as it was during the war and each bedroom has its own tale to tell. There is also the most beautiful garden here. Further information can be found on their website at www.talbothouse.be.
Before leaving Poperinge we walked down to the Town Hall which was used as a Divisional HQ during the war. This was a particularly moving site to visit as it was here that some soldiers were executed. In the courtyard is a replica execution post and inside are two preserved cells, graffiti written by some of the soldiers held here can be read on the walls of one cell and the second cell has a window you can look through and see the holographic image of a soldier pacing his cell the night before being executed by firing squad. Although not many men were actually executed here, it represents something that sadly did happen during the war to men many of whom were most likely suffering from shell-shock or PTSD.
We headed into Ieper for a few hours before heading to the airport. Here we had the opportunity to visit the ‘In Flanders Field Museum’ located in the famous Cloth Hall right in the centre of town. Afterwards some of us visited St George’s Memorial Church, a beautiful church which is covered with memorial dedications, plaques and hand embroidered kneelers.
Our last visit this trip was to Yprès Town Cemetery to the grave of one of our Kilkenny fallen, 19 year old Michael O’Keeffe from Thomastown.