Daventry man guest at World War One centenary ceremony in Belgium
Martin Fryatt, 65, was at the event marking the 100-year anniversary of the Third Battle of Ypres as a guest due to his grandfather, Arthur Dennis, being wounded in conflict at Broodenseinde near Ypres.
The ceremony at the Tyne Cot cemetery in Belgium was organised by the Government and 4,000 relatives of fallen and wounded soldiers were in attendance, as were Prince Charles, Prince William and Prime Minister Theresa May.
“It was such a tremendous event,” said Mr Fryatt, who wore on his chest the three medals awarded to his grandfather, the silver badge given to Arthur for the injuries he sustained and the joint medals received by his parents.
“It was awesome to be a part of it. Absolutely staggering.”
He added: “It’s a thing you could never repeat. It was such a phenomenal event in history.”
Mr Fryatt ’s visit to Ypres was the second European trip the former chauffeur and taxi driver has underwent in a matter of weeks.
In mid-July he travelled to the Somme to pay his respects to other members of his family who perished in the Great War.
“It’s very difficult to describe,” said Mr Fryatt reflecting on how he felt while in France and Belgium.
“It’s very emotional, to think what those poor people went through, thousands of them.
“Unless you know something about it you just don’t realise what went on.”
After receiving his invitation to the Ypres ceremony Mr Fryatt discovered that his family’s ties to the war extended to his wounded grandfather’s brother Charles, and three Australian great uncles all buried within miles of each other in the French department of the Somme, roughly 150km from Ypres.
This prompted him to organise a visit to France where he paid his respects at Charles’ grave exactly 100 years to the day when he lost his life.
“I’ve never cried so much in four days,” said Mr Fryatt after returning from France.
“I definitely felt a connection. To be at his grave 100 years to the day when four months ago I did not even know about him, I never even knew the man existed, it’s stunning.”
Mr Fryatt said he would return to the French department to find out more about the history of the region during war time, and looked forward to meeting members of the Association Digger-cote 106, who joined him at the cemetery in WWI uniform.