The sixth meeting of the 39th season started at 10.30a.m with a welcome to visitor Les Parkes who at the end of the meeting became a new member!! The Chairman advised thar six apologies had been offered.
A reminder of Christmas lunch and the need for bookings and payments to John Taylor by the first of December was given. In his capacity as Secretary Neil Ramshaw advised that he had a stock of spare membership cards which members could make use of if they were aware of any potential new members amongst their acquaintances. A letter had been received from St Michael’s Hospice thanking the Forum for its formal donation of £50…in addition individual donations at that meeting contributed a further £68-50 so a fine overall effort from our generous little band!! Tony Bills had left a black case at the meeting two weeks previously but it did not appear to have been picked up by anyone.
Today saw a popular and returning Speaker in Mr Terry Frazier whose topic “All Quiet On The Western Front” was most appropriate for the time of year. Terry and his wife had been on a Battlefield’s Tour in Belgium and France and he shared his experiences with us. Starting with a brief overview of the causes of the First World War and how the protagonists lined up against each other he then focussed on the Western Front somewhere in excess of 400 miles which stretched from Belgium through France and to the Swiss border but his concentration was largely on the 80 miles or so that involved British troops. Through 1915/1917 it was the scene of several major offensives but the line remained essentially the same for most of the war. German Forces were in the main positioned on high ground with British and Allied Forces lower down with certain disadvantages emanating from those downside positions. Trench warfare developed and the construction of such fortifications was discussed and shown including their zig zag orientation. Place names that have passed into history were brought to life including Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme with the sheer scale of casualties on both sides being difficult to comprehend and understand. The adverse weather notably unusually heavy rainfall and awful battlefield conditions experienced by troops was also salutary especially as the “Home Before Christmas” war expanded into a long drawn out and attritional series of battles over a number of years. Terry’s talk was illustrated by an excellent slide show which showed comparisons of war sites and places both in their original war-time setting with great evidence of the damage caused against contemporary photographs of the same sites and places and the recovery that has been achieved. Perhaps the most moving sight was the number and scale of War Graves in these locations together with the listings of Unrecovered bodies numbering in the hundreds of thousands and poignantly how well-kept and peaceful they appear now against the backdrop of the carnage from the war period. Questions at the end and comments indicated the interest, involvement and engagement from the morning’s proceedings.
The Vote of Thanks on behalf of the 39 attendees was given by John Corby.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY