Our World War 1 expedition finished at the Irish Peace Park. Another place I hadn’t planned on visiting but with our Irish links and the proximity to Ypres decided we must.
A bit tricky to find, right in the middle of the Belgian countryside but when the replica Irish tower loomed on the horizon we were sorted. The memorial is relatively modern, only unveiled on Remembrance Day 1998. The President of Ireland, Queen Elizabeth II and King Albert II of Belgium attended this ceremony.
Close to the site of the Messines Ridge the location was chosen because that famous battle was one of the few where Irishmen, regardless of religion fought side by side against a common enemy. A beautiful and peaceful spot, it is dominated by that Irish round tower. 110 feet tall it is built from stone which came from a former British army barracks in Tipperary and a workhouse in Co Westmeath. The design means the sun only lights the inside on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
There are stone tablets along the walkway with quotations from Irish servicemen. Three pillars record the numbers killed and wounded. More of those sobering statistics.
An inscription on the tower in Gaelic and English dedicates this place to all Irish soldiers of all political persuasions who fought and died in World War 1. A fitting tribute, we found it a reflective and moving place and that idea of peace and reconciliation in Ireland still strikes an important chord.