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The making of Will Ye Go To Flanders

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Will Ye Go To Flanders? won 4-stars at BIAFF 2008

Will Ye Go To Flanders?
by Willy Van der Linden

Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.

Will ye go to Flanders, my Mally, O?
And join the bold hielanders, my Mally, O?
Ye'll hear the captains callin'
And see the sergeants crawlin'
And a' the sodjers fallin', my Mally, O.

(traditional song)

Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.

My father, Frans Van der Linden, was a member of the Resistance in the Second World War. His remains lie in a military cemetery near Antwerp. He seldom talked about the things that happened to him. Once I sang the German national anthem Deutschland über Alles! I learnt German at school. My teacher had given that song to his pupils. Maybe he was a collaborator! My father was furious. I will never forget that day…

Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.My dad, however, talked a lot about his uncles, my great-uncles, who died in Flanders Fields.

He was born just after the First World War and my great grand-parents were in deep mourning at that time. Two of their sons, Frans and Victor, were killed by the explosion of shrapnel shells.1 One member of my family has a large photograph of the two soldiers smoking a cigarette. All this gave me the idea of making a film about them. Afterwards I thought it would be better to make a documentary about the Great War and to use the story of my great-uncles as an introduction. In the finished film my brother and I are actors. Our second names are Frans and Victor !

Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.I did some research work which I enjoy very much. I am a former teacher of history. I contacted the Army Museum in Brussels. They gave me the diaries of my two great-uncles. So I could give the members of the Van der Linden family surprising information. Then I visited the Passchendale 1917 Museum. They gave me archive footage. I didn't have to pay for it, but I had to do something in return. They asked me to film all the events to commemorate the Battle of Passchendaele 1917.
Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.The remains of a Lancashire Fusilier was found by the chairman of the Volunteer Passchendaele Society.2 I got the privilege of filming the funeral of the soldier. Moreover Her Majesty the Queen visited Tyne Cot Cemetery in July. I was allowed to follow her with my camera. I filmed the Scottish, Irish and ANZAC- weekends. There was no Welsh weekend… What an experience thanks to my hobby! Next year I will make a film about all these events.
Why "Will Ye Go to Flanders?". Because thousands and thousands of young men from different countries all over the world died in Flanders Fields. Foreigners and even our own Flemish people don't always realise how many young soldiers lost their lives in this small part of Belgium. And what for? For some political idiots whose vanity was a form of madness. Not only these young men were the victims of the Great War, also their wives, their children, their parents… It is good that I showed so many cemeteries in my film: British ones, French ones, Irish ones, Belgian ones and … yes, also German ones. Why not?
Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'. Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'. Still from 'Will Ye Go To Flanders'.

Strange … that War of Madness! It was unique that even Irish catholic and protestant soldiers fought together putting aside "for the duration" their differences about Irish independence from Britain. This special situation is recognised in the engraving on the plague of a statue in the Irish Peace Park.

- Willy Van der Linden

1 Shrapnel today refers to any metal fragments blasted out of an explosion, but in WW1 it referred to a specific type of artillery shell. Major-General Henry Shrapnel, an English artillery officer devised this anti-personnel weapon around 1784. A shrapnel shell contains a mass of small lead balls surrounding a modest explosive charge. When she shell lands the charge explodes sending what are in effect bullets in all directions. It was used to devastating effect by all sides in Flanders
2 The Flanders soil preserves human remains and unexploded ordnance. Every ploughing season farmers find coming to the surface more of these bleak reminders of what happened 90 years ago. In recent years work on a new motorway in the area has unearthed more.

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