BBC news coverage of the Passchendaele centenary.
In message ,
Terry Casey writes
I was appalled by the inaccuracies in the the BBC's 10
o'clock News last night in the reports of the centenary of
the start of the Third Battle of Ieper.
The battle lasted three months until the village of
Passchendaele - its target, was reached - we were told.
WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
The target was the North Sea ports with the intention of
halting the activities of the German U-boats which were
Later, at the Menin Gate, we were told that the 55,000 names
on the memorial were those of the men who died at
Paschendael and have no known graves. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
As Wikipedia states: 'On completion of the memorial, it was
discovered to be too small to contain all the names as
originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15 August
1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 UK missing after
this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the
So yes, a few of the names will be of men who fought in the
first fortnight of the battle but the vast majority are not!
In the entire report there was only one person - a
representitive of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission -
who correctly pronounced the name of the town - Ieper. All
the rest mangled the pronunciation of the French name for
this Flemish town (Ypres). True, that is the name by which
it was known in WWI, but it was as wrong then as it is now.
When Belgium first gained its independence in 1830, all of
the coal, steel and manufacturing industry - hence the
wealth of the country - were in the south in French speaking
So the Walloons took control of the country and said that
the language would be French and those peasant farmers in
the north could like it or lump it. Thus began the struggle
by the Flemish for the right to their own identity and there
are now, after over a century, separate Walloon and Flemish
parliaments. My and my wife's respective French teacher told
us, incorrectly, that you could speak French in Belgium. I
think the average Fleming would find this rather insulting
and trying out your schoolboy (or girl) French in Flanders
is not recommended!
Most Flemish speak French nearly as well as they speak English. Many
Walloons don't really speak much Flemish (if at all) - and even fewer
speak any English.
As most Flemish speak English (ranging from a-fair-bit to excellent),
there's not much point in trying to speak to them in French. But if the
odd occasion required it, I can't recall that anyone ever objected.
I recall that, on several occasions, I suggested that English should be
adopted as Belgium's national language, and Flemish and/or French
relegated to a second language. I got some strange looks.
Go to Flanders expecting helpful road signs to guide you to
Ypres Centre Ville will get you nowhere. the signs you
should be looking for say Ieper Centrum ...
I think the prize for the worst pronunciation of Ypres must
go to Helen Mirren who, in the earlier program on BBC2,
repeatedly said Eep-rah - where did the ah come from?
The 'Escape To The Country' presenters sometimes don't bother too much
about the places they visit. In particular, I recall one presenter
repeatedly pronouncing the River Coquet (KO-ket) as 'coquette'.
French famously do not pronounce the ends of their words and
Ypres is no exception with only the r being pronounced, thus
Don't worry folks! After all, it's only our licence money
that pays for all this plus, for the concert in Ieper
itself, presumably our taxes ...