CAMBRIDGE / LE QUESNOY
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TRIP REPORTS

This page will be a place where visitors to either Cambridge or to Le Quesnoy can have their trip reports posted up, with stories of their experiences, and their photos or links to video, etc. So if you have visited either town and would like to contribute, please email the webmaster, Dave Homewood

Trip Reports from Le Quesnoy
Reports from visiors to the French town of Le Quesnoy

 

Hayley Simmonds

Pete Mossong

Eris Parker

 

 

 

A Weekend in Le Quesnoy
By Hayley Simmonds
27th of April 2010

Here is just a little update from me about the amazing weekend I had in Le Quesnoy. I have attached some photos as well. The cemetery, laying the wreath down, in the town hall, and under the sign 'All Blacks Place' :)

I had the great opportunity to go to Le Quesnoy (in France) over the ANZAC weekend. Where I'm living in Belgium is around a two hour drive from the town, so I was very fortunate to be so close! I travelled by myself by train to get there, and when I arrived I immediately felt a warm and friendly atmosphere, and it was funny how at home I felt.

Le Quesnoy was liberated by the NZ army right before the end of World War I, and that is why the city and NZ have such a strong and close relationship. It really shows too, because all along the town there are NZ icons everywhere! There was an 'ALL BLACKS PLACE', a 'NEW ZEALAND ROAD', a 'CAMBRIDGE PUB', aaaaand...get this, a 'HELEN CLARK ROAD'!!!!! I found that quite hilarious, especially since they spelt here name the French way: 'Hélène Clark'

I stayed in barracks, and shared a room with 3 other NZ girls, who are all living in France at the moment. I also met another Cambridge family, Andrew the vicar of St.Andrews church and his family. I was surrounded by so many New Zealanders, that I felt so at home!! There were probably 40 New Zealanders that stayed over the weekend, and more came for the service on Sunday. Le Quesnoy hosts any New Zealanders who wish to stay over the weekend, and provides accommodation and meals. I was blown away by their generosity and kindness.

The Saturday we visited the cemeteries and grave sites of the soldiers who died during battle. I wasn't prepared for how moving this experience was. We had guided tours explain the history of what happened. Basically, Le Quesnoy used to be surrounded by a huge wall. The Germans took over the town during WWI, and it was the NZ army that climbed over the wall and liberated the town just before the war ended. However, many NZ soldiers died in the process.

The ANZAC service on Sunday was special, and I had the privilege of representing my Rotary Club in Cambridge, and lay a wreath down on their behalf. I felt very proud to be a kiwi over this weekend, and I'm sure I will return to Le Quesnoy sometime in the future.

Hope all is well in Cambridge,

Hayley Simmonds

 

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A very brief visit to Le Quesnoy
A report from Pete Mossong
on his 2008 visit

On November 3rd, 2008, after spending a couple of weeks touring the south and west of England, I headed off to France via the Eurostar train to Lille in northern France.

I spent a few hours exploring Lille, then made my way via the domestic railway system (very impressive, and scheduled trains always seemed to run on time) to Cambrai where I was to base myself for several days.

After having a good walk around Cambrai (and sampling some of the local food and beverages), I headed back to my motel for an early night ‘in’ as I was planning a very early start to the next day’s excursions!

 

Cambrai Memorial

In the morning of the 4th, I caught the first train to Valenciennes and from there to Le Quesnoy, arriving about 8.00 am to find the town full of flags of both France and New Zealand, either flying from poles or featured in displays in many of the shop windows.

 

My first task was to find and visit the New Zealand memorial where the Kiwis climbed the walls, and had no problem as it was well signposted in both languages.

A short walk up and over the wall brought me to a clearing on the path that circles the walls, and the site of the memorial.

I was lucky that my camera had now decided to behave itself (for the moment) as it had been giving me a few problems during my trip, and managed to get a couple of photos of the memorial plaque and its setting. It was a very quiet spot at that time of the morning.

 

The memorial is placed on the old walls, and as with the rest of the town, was very well cared for in appearance.

 

After a short time of contemplation there, I headed off for a walk around the town walls to explore the old Vauban fortifications and to have a better look at the town itself.

Of the many photos I took here, only the following one ‘stuck’ in my camera. Yes, it had decided to ‘play-up’ again!

 

After enquiring at the visitors Bureau which was by now open, the friendly ladies there informed me that the main ceremonies were to begin at 6.00 pm, and unfortunately I had to head back to Cambrai to undertake the second of my planned visits in the area. In the light of what happened in the afternoon, I now wish I’d had a crystal ball with me!

My impressions of Le Quesnoy were of a very pretty and well cared for town, and I’m glad I made the effort to get there, but still remain disappointed that I missed out on the ceremonial part of the day.

I returned by train to Cambrai in the early afternoon, and was hoping to find either a bus or a taxi to get to the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Beaulencourt where one of my WWI soldier relatives is buried.

My bad luck continued in that there were no taxis around, and no buses running that day as the drivers were on strike. This is the second time this has happened to me in France, as during a trip to Paris in 2001, the Public Service was on strike, and the Arc de Triomphe was closed to visitors!

I’ll have to do that one on a future visit to Europe!

Peter Mossong.

 

Report From Eris Parker's 2006 Visit

 

Le Quesnoy 2006
by Eris Parker

The reason for my overseas trip in 2006 was to tie up the research I had been doing for the past 18 years on Cambridge WW1 Soldiers by photographing the areas of battles, cemeteries and their headstones.

My book ‘Cambridge WW1 - Something to Remember’ was published in 2000 and included our Cambridge soldiers who died in WW1, as well as what Cambridge was doing during 1914 - 1918.

 

 

During my research I was able to establish who our soldiers were, where they fought, the battles they were involved with and where they died. The names on our Cambridge cenotaph have become real people.

The Cambridge RSA gave me poppies to put on our soldiers’ graves.

I was led to believe that most of the cemeteries I wanted to see in France and Belgium could be included in the ‘Tag Along Tour’ so I set out to make travel arrangements. From Anzac Day at Le Quesnoy to a British ‘Leger Tour’ of Gallipoli - was about six weeks. This allowed time for ‘work’ and a holiday.

Through the Cambridge Edition newspaper I let residents know that I could photograph their relative’s headstones in the cemeteries I was going to visit. I had 16 requests and was able to carry out 9.

19 April I set off, flew to Paris and met up with some of our group. What with hassles with the hire van and one thing and another I lost the first day’s research and we arrived at Le Quesnoy at 6pm. Just in time for the welcome speeches.

I was billeted with a lovely couple and our stay with our Sister City was first class.

 

We were privileged to see the bells (about 50 - all sizes) in their town hall tower and we watched a demonstration of their carillon; visit the Baron and Baroness at the Chateau de Potelle; and took a tour of the Beaudignies municipal offices conducted by Mayor Raymonde. These visits were especially organised for our group.

The Le Quesnoy Friendship Association provided lunch, dinner and suppers - they love speeches, singing and cheese.

The area around Le Quesnoy saw the last battles for the New Zealanders and I was able to get a headstone photo for a Cambridge researcher at the Le Quesnoy cemetery, and another at Romenies cemetery.

 

I also photographed a Cambridge soldier’s headstone John Allan Hicks, at the nearby Vertignuel Churchyard.

Anzac Day at Le Quesnoy was commemorated on Sunday 23 April and Waipa Mayor Alan Livingston laid the wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial where New Zealanders scaled their wall.

Then another wreath at the Le Quesnoy cenotaph and more speeches and more food.

Monday we started the ‘Tag Along Tour’ visiting the Battle of Waterloo site.  Later in the afternoon we visited Tyne Cot Memorial at Passchendaele.

 

In the evening we were at (Ypres) Ieper and the Menin Gate 8pm Last Post ceremony for Mayor Alan to lay a poppy wreath.

The next day was 25 April and Alan laid a wreath at La Ville de Messines cenotaph and another at the Messines New Zealand Memorial.

 

Then in the afternoon he laid the Anzac wreath at Menin Gate for New Zealand.
We were very proud – there was not a dry eye in our group.

 

 

 

Trip Reports from Cambridge
Reports from visitors to the New Zealand town of Cambridge



 

 

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