Who am I ?  Well... here is my story....

 

My name is Danielle and I live near Antwerp in Belgium, I love history and have always been interested in the First and Second World War mostly because of the stories my grandfather Jan told me. 

 

As a young man he served in the Railway troops and after his army service he became a police man in Antwerp, Jan was N° 850.

 

During the Second World War he worked with the American Troops in Antwerp, in the vice squad. He was also part of the armed resistance and did his share in protecting the city of Antwerp.

For many years I have been touring all over Europe visiting war sites, cemeteries and museums mostly as a hobby until one day I got a request from an overseas pen-pal.  She asked me if I could visit the grave of her great uncle and take some photos for her and her family because for them it would be impossible to come to Europe. So I did and she told me the story of her great uncle, also send me his photo and all of a sudden the name on the headstone became a face.  From there on I got more photo requests, also for the American war graves and I started doing research into the soldiers I visited.  And that was the point where the hobby turned into a passion; the names became stories, became faces and got "real", once you start researching you can not stop, way too fascinating.

 

One day I attended the funeral service of a Commonwealth soldier of the First World War, this had a great impact on me and out of respect I now try to attend the rededication and commemoration services.  To me it is very important that they receive a proper burial or headstone rededication even after 100 years, it is also important for the families to have closure and know where their loved ones are buried now.

 

Also I "adopted" several American and Commonwealth graves, I do research into these soldiers; try to piece together their military life and bringing me in contact with their families and they are so grateful for what I do.  For some I was the first one in a century to visit the grave and put flowers, like the Canadian soldier buried in France I went to see recently as a request from his family.

 

I am the link between the soldier buried or commemorated in Europe and the overseas families that will never be able to visit, to me that is a real honour. 

 

I do trips in Belgium, the north of France, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and the west of Germany, visiting all the Commonwealth cemeteries, one even more beautiful than the other, they are so well kept and I love walking around, taking photos, reading the, sometimes heartbreaking, epitaphs and just enjoy the flowers that are blooming almost all year around.  

Everybody can contact me if they want a memento or help with the search for a soldier and his history, if it is within my reach I will certainly try and help.  To me it is very important that history will not be forgotten and I hope that through my photos people, especially the younger generation, will keep the memory alive.

** Danielle **