It’s a long walk from the bus stop outside the Langemark Cemetery to the main gate. It’s a strange experience, one that seems, oddly, like it’s meant to disturb you. For a year ten Australian who has grown up with a war about mate-ship and glory and sacrifice, yesterday I found that I didn’t quite know how to feel.
In stark contrast to the Polygon Wood Cemetery, where each soldier, known or unknown, had their own individual grave, the initial scale of the Langemark Cemetery was lost. Not only were the black plaques set low in the ground, as opposed to pristine white headstones at Polygon Wood, but on closer inspection you realise that each plaque signals the grave of twenty individuals. There is a very real sense at Langemark Cemetery that people are buried there, one I don’t believe anyone missed. There is something essentially wrong about the Langemark Cemetery, a feeling that the people buried there are not as valued as maybe those buried somewhere like Polygon Wood, that I, as a 16 year old Australian, found palpable.
Afterwards, on the bus, researching the significance of the stone crosses dotted throughout the cemetery, I accidentally discovered that the Langemark German Cemetery had been visited by Adolf Hitler in June 1940. On reading this information I felt very disturbed and disgusted, a feeling which has not yet gone away.