The annual bantamspast trip to the battlefields of the Great War is this year concentrating on the Ypres Salient in Belgium. Scene of some of the most bloody fighting of the conflict, Ypres became the final resting place of Bradford City's FA Cup winning captain and goalscorer Jimmy Speirs and the man-of-the-match in the replayed final Robert Torrance.
The first day commenced in drizzly conditions at Essex Farm Cemetery where John McCrae wrote the famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' whilst serving with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Adjacent to the cemetery is the large obelisk memorial to the 49th West Riding Division. The division included the Belle Vue based 1/6th West Yorkshire Regiment. Among their casualties was City reserve Ernest Goodwin. Part of the divisional artillery was the 2nd West Riding Royal Field Artillery. They were based at the Valley Parade Drill Hall. When they mustered to depart for France at the start of the war it is reported that they used the Valley Parade pitch to store their guns and horses.
We moved on from Essex Farm to visit several cemeteries. The highlight was Lijssenhoek, which is the second largest British war cemetery in the world with some 9,901 burials. A highly informative visitor centre illustrates the work of the adjacent casualty clearing station which treated 300,000 injured soldiers.
After lunch and in increasingly glorious sunshine we searched for the site of the location where Robert Torrance was mortally wounded. Sadly he has no known grave. However, just across the fields from where the action took place where Torrance lost an arm and later died, is Klien Vierstraat British Cemetery. It is the home of bodies discovered after the war and if Robert does have a grave he is likely to be among the 109 that are marked 'A Solider of the Great War, known unto God'.
We continued the unforgettable day at the famous locations of Sanctuary Wood and Hill 60. Tomorrow we will seek out the location where Jimmy Speirs met his untimely end. Find out if we were successful when the blog is published tomorrow night.