After visiting my Great Great Uncle`s grave in Choques, Dan thought it would be a good idea for us to visit Tyne Cot to carry out a recce before we did  the shoot the next day. I had never been before and agreed, it would give us some ideas for the next day and put our heads in the creative zone .

Dan had told me a lot about Tyne Cot and I`d seen photographs so I had a rough idea of what to expect. 

We arrived and the Flanders sky opened up with torrential rain to let us know who was in charge. These lads never had a chance of shelter, they just had to crack on and live and fight in it.  We had a warm dry place to stay in Ypres later so off we went and got drenched.

I knew there were just under 12000 buried there; Dan had told me all about it and I knew there was 35000 names of the missing on the wall at the back; I had read about the battles.  Dan is our historian - he had told me all about it but what he hadn't told me was what it felt like to actually be there.

Once we got in and I saw the grave stones, all 11900 of them, of only which 3605 have been identified, I was hit by this huge wave of emotion and I froze.  I couldn`t control the sadness that went through me.  I couldn`t speak - all I could do was let the tears roll down my face.  After some minutes I managed to compose myself,  I looked at Dan and said, "I`m really sorry - I don't know what to say."  He came over and bear hugged me and I wiped my eyes and I did what I always do - I got my camera out - my Rock, my safe place and I started taking photographs.

We got drenched through.  It was only meant to be a recce but it was like we were being tested to see if we were worthy enough to represent them and tell some of their story; it gave us some idea of what the rain at Passchendaele was like.

That night we went to the Menin Gate to see the last post then went and had some food.  We talked about how we would work it in the rain the next day and which angles we could take.

The next morning we were greeted by hot, dry blue skies with big contrasting clouds at Tyne Cot.  First of all we visited the wall of the missing for the Royal Marines Light Infantry and laid two wreaths, one from Rock2Recovery and one on the behalf of all Royal Marines then we got on with the shoot.

It was a very different feel that day - full of peace and a beautiful place to just be.  The cemetery itself is built around three machine gun posts that had to be taken at a very high cost but now there is peace again in those fields.  There was a school trip from the North East of England; the children were enjoying themselves and were very respectful but they were still being children. They sat on the memorial and took selfies, they laughed and joked and they came over to us to see what we were doing.  They ran about , they drew pictures , and were full of life being innocent and free just like the young men who had lost their lives here once were.  It was a special thing to witness in a place so beautiful yet so full of tragedy.  The biggest thing that struck me at Tyne Cot is this: I have a wide angle lens, its one of my favourite lenses to use, it shoots really wide, I can point it up to the night sky and I can fit the Milky Way into the corner of a frame and still have lots of room left, but when it comes to the dead at Tyne Cot, its just not wide enough to fit them all in.

Al Webb

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