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Supporters visit Ypres to visit graves of fallen wartime Kent cricketers

Monday 20th April 2015

Forty Kent County Cricket Supporters Club members made the trip to Ypres in Belgium last week, visiting the Flanders Battlefields, War Memorials, and the grave of Colin Blythe.

Colin Blythe, Kent’s famous slow left arm bowler, played for the County between 1899 and 1914, taking over 2500 wickets in 439 matches, and in 19 Test matches for England taking 100 Wickets.

He was killed by shell fire on November 8, 1917, at Passchendaele, and is buried in the Oxford Road Military Cemetery.

The first port of call for the Supporters Club party was Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood. Here there is an original trench lay out and an excellent museum.

The Oxford Road cemetery followed, where the two ex-Kent cricketers with the party, Norman Graham and Richard Hills, laid a miniature cricket at the graveside of Colin Blythe, as a mark of respect on behalf of the Supporters Club.

A visit was then made to Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth Memorial Cemetery in the world, with 11,954 soldiers buried, 8367 unknown.

There is now an excellent visitor centre, opened by the Queen in 2007, which overlooks the battlefield of Passchendaele and contains much information about the terrible fighting that took place.

The culmination of the day was a visit to Ypres and the ‘In Flanders Field Museum’ together with the St Georges Cathedral. At 8.00pm the party then attended the ‘Last Post’ Ceremony that is held at the Menim Gate.

The Menim Gate is the most famous Commonwealth War Memorial. Opened in 1927, it bears the names of 54,896 soldiers who were killed and missing in the Ypres fighting.

The Last Post ceremony takes place every day, and has done so since 1927 apart for a period during the Second World War.

At the end of the ceremony, by tradition, The Last Post is played by the Buglers of the local fire brigade.

At the time of the Supporters Club visit, many hundreds of visitors from all round the world were in attendance at the ceremony, which attracts large crowds on a daily basis.

A more detailed account of the visit will appear in the next Kent County Cricket Supporters Club Magazine.