A firefighter has organised a historic march to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele that his grandfather fought in.
Mark Hastings has spent seven years gaining permission for 500 people to walk between Poperinge to Passchendaele over two days on 5th and 6th November. It will culminate in a church service to remember the estimated 180,000 who died in the battle.
Promised to not let him down
To promote the event a website has been set up by Mark who served as a mechanic in the British Army for 10 years before joining the Brigade.
Those interested in joining the march can register between now and the end of August. Each registration will cost £45 and the money raised will help pay to run the event. Two camp sites have been organised and there is plenty of accommodation available for those who wish to stay in the local area.
Mark who lives in Twickenham said: “My grandfather – Lt Kenneth Herbert Thompson – died in October 1973 when I was nine and I had a very special bond with him.
“His death still upsets me today and I remember making a promise to him that whatever I did in my life I would not let him down. After researching the war I realised how lucky I was to be alive.
“The Ypres Salient of which Passchendaele was part was a ghastly place, your comrades and enemies could be killed in any number of ways and just sink into the mud in front of you. The ones that didn’t sink in the mud just rotted because it was too dangerous to pick them up and bury them.
“When they were finally buried, notes were taken of where they were and passed down the chain of command so that in time the remains could be recovered and given a proper burial. Two things usually happened, either the notes were lost (with or without the carrier) or a shell landed on the grave and the remains disappeared.
“The whole aim of the event is to capture the wish of veterans the world over to express in the strongest possible terms imaginable that we will always remember you and honour your memory.”
The Ypres Salient of which Passchendaele was part was “a ghastly place”.
Mark Hastings grandfather, Lt Kenneth Herbert Thompson, fought in the Passchendaele battle. Lt Thompson died in 1973.
The South London Press mentioned at the time that “it seems the irony of fate that Fireman Fay should have gone through the battles of Mons, the Marne and the Aisne…and on re-joining the Brigade on his return should be killed at a fire within a few weeks.”
To mark the sacrifice made by all firefighters in the line of duty, today sees the first national day to mark the deaths of firefighters across the UK.
The event has been organised by the Firefighters Memorial Trust, with the support of London Fire Brigade, the FBU, the Fire Officers Association, Retained Firefighters Union and the Association of Principal Fire Officers.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “The level of dedication Mark has put in to securing this momentous is a credit to him, his grandfather and all who served during the Great War. As we mark Firefighters Memorial Day it is a chance for everyone to remember the sacrifice members of the fire service have given to protect life and property.
“I wish Mark every success and would encourage people to get involved in this once in a life time opportunity.”