A journey from Paris to London as a mark of personal remembrance of WWI

From ‘Forgotten Voices of the Great War’ by Max Arthur

day threeb

The Battle of Neuve Chapelle

Trooper Walter Becklade
5th Cavalry Brigade

I was wounded in the battle and taken to a casualty clearing station. I was beside a fellow who had got his arms bandaged up – I’d simply got my right arm bandaged. He was trying to light his pipe but couldn’t​ get on very well so I offered to fill and light it for him. But when I’d lit it I suddenly realised he had nowhere to put it, as he’d had his lower jaw blown away. So I smoked the pipe and he smelt the tobacco, that was all the poor chap could have.

Corporal Alan Bray

We took up position near Kemmel Hill. It was foggy and the attack was delayed two hours, which didn’t do our spirits much good.Then the time came for us to go over. We had to run forward about fifty yards up some planks over our own front line trenches, and then across a meadow where it was almost impossible to run, we could only stagger along. As we were going over the planks about half of us were knocked out – either killed or wounded and going across the meadow there were a lot more killed.
When we finally stopped to lay down, trying to get what shelter we could from the tremendous rifle fire which was coming over , a sergeant just in front of us jumped up and said ‘Come on men, be British’. So we jumped up and run again and followed him. He ran about six yards and then he went down too.
Well, then there were about a dozen of us left and we ran on another 20 yards towards the German trenches. Those trenches were literally packed – the men were standing four deep, firing machine guns and rifles straight at us, and the only shelter we could see was a road which ran up at right angles to the trench with a bank on the left-hand side. We managed to reach this bank but found ourselves looking straight up at the German trenches while they were firing straight down, gradually picking us off. Eventually there was only myself and another chap that weren’t hit.


Day 2 – Montesson to Boisemont

I have to admit to feeling very reluctant and nervous to leave my hotel room and walk Day 2. Yesterday did nothing to give me confidence.

With very little breakfast inside me I set out again along the Seine. Most of my route followed the popular cycle track full of joggers and cyclists.

Crossing the river I stopped to rest in the grounds of the beautiful Chateau de Maisons. http://www.maisonslaffitte.net

I then headed along the grand boulevard to the woods. This whole route was a motorway for Sunday fitness enthusiasts who made me feel like a snail in comparison. The woodland was lovely with many out foraging for mushrooms among the autumn leaves.

Finally I arrived at the welcoming La Ferme Rose http://www.fermerose.fr and feel I have left Paris behind.

Again the support along route has been superb. A group of cyclists have all cried ‘Bravo’ and told me to ‘quick march!’. One dog walker stopped to talk and after leaving returned to shake my hand and thank me ‘from the French to the Americans and British for rescuing us’. I smiled but gave no response.

I met a jogger who took the time to tell me about his Grandfathers who survived the war and those relatives that did not.

I strapped my feet well this morning which have been more comfortable. On the down side the webbing hurts like crazy, my shirt stinks and I had my first B5 boot vs dog poo incident.

Firmly in my mind is the knowledge that all this is mere trivial discomfort compared with that suffered by many in the First World War and those still fought today.

Day 1- Paris, Arc de Triomphe to Montesson along the Seine.

Under any other circumstances today would be a perfect day for an autumnal walk along the banks of the Seine.  Unfortunately the heat has made it a very difficult 14 miles for the first day.

I started at sunrise at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, Arc de Triomphe. It’s been obvious since arriving in Paris that the image of a WW1 British soldier isn’t as recognised here. The Parisain police thought I was homeless looking for somewhere to sleep and tried to escort me to a shelter. Fortunately I had a good written translation of my journey to give them and with a brief smile and look of indifference they took me back to the Arc de Triomphe.

I took moment to reflect at the tomb before heading out of the city to the river by the most direct route. The sun rising over the arc de Triomphe was a beautiful site.

The Avenue Verte follows the Seine and was packed with morning joggers. I was asked many questions I didn’t understand but wouldn’t have had time to answer if I spoke fluent french as few stopped their run to wait for me to speak.

I met many interested people along route. When they understood my reasons for walking  I was given fantastic support which helped move me on in the heat. Complete strangers saying ‘Bravo’ and ‘God Bless’ has really shown me why I am taking this journey.  One dog walker stated that I was ‘very british in doing this!’. Special thanks also to Angelina who’s hospitality has typified that I have received today.

At present I can’t comprehend the longer days to come of up to 28 miles. Tonight I need to lighten my pack and look after my feet.  I need to take one day at a time.


A Solemn Commemoration

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4, 8

You will find the full order of service for A Solemn Commemoration of the Centenary of the Outbreak of the First World War at Westminster Abbey  here

Grave of the Unknown Warrior

I shall be walking between the GOTUW at the Arc de Triomphe to that at Westminster Abbey.

The following video shows footage from the burial of the soldier at Westminster abbey.