Monday 18 April 2016

After thanking the President of the local giants for all he and the other members did over the weekend, we set off again on our tour, this time to Pérrone. We called in to the Tourist office to find out about parking for the night and the lady was very helpful with many maps and suggestions of what we should do in the area. Unfortunately we are now on a tight schedule so we only had time to visit the museum. We thought that it was strange to find that the entrance was being refurbished this year of all years and consequently we had a detour to go in by a rear entrance. Unfortunately once in, we found that some of the displays were removed for refurbishment of the museum. Apparently there will be many commemorative ceremonies attended by dignitaries at memorials on July 1st 2016. Consequently a lot of preparations are taking place at the moment.

After a short walk around the town centre we followed the advice of the Tourist Office and parked up at Lake Étang du Cam


We left Pérrone and on the edge of the town we did some shopping at the E'Leclerc. There we found the cheapest gin for a long time, £7.80 for a top quality Gin. Gibsons is comparable to Gordons and we can't even taste the difference, so we came away with six bottles of the stuff.

And then the tour of the memorials began. They call it the "Remembrance Trail" follow the poppy signposts and the many maps.

The first memorial that we found was at Bouchavesnes-Bergen, The Monument to Marechal Foch.

Then, on to Rancourt which is quite special because they have 3 cemeteries in their little village, each to different nations.

The first that we visited was the French one with a Chapel of remembrance,

then the English cemetery across the road

and on leaving we spotted the German one but could not stop there.

Next we drove to Longueval to see the cemetery at Delville Wood

then across the road to the South African memorial in Delvillle Wood. Whilst we were going in we met a South African delegation coming out and Allan had a chat with one of them in uniform

It was here that 3153 South Africans were given orders to take the woods at all costs. 6 days later, when they were relieved, only 142 men came out of the woods unscathed.
Only one tree survives today. The guide book explains that because of the destruction here the forest had to be replanted after the war.

This was another Memorial undergoing refurbishment with new pathways for the big ceremonials in July and the museum was actually closed.

We then passed Bois des Foureaux, now known as Bois des Fourcaux and known to the British infantry as High Wood. The cemetery where the London Division suffered a huge loss of men during the Battle of Bazentin Ridge.

This whole Remembrance tour is only a few miles and it is surprising that each visit is just a little further along the road.
It took four and a half months of fighting in 1916 and thousands of men killed and wounded, to get this far but the horror is, that the most the Front Line advanced was only ten miles.
Later in the week we discovered that in the early part of 1918 when there was the Russian revolution, the Germans could leave the Eastern Front. Then more German soldiers were sent here and they recaptured all of this ground and more besides.

We then visited the London Division Extension.

We passed the Canadian Cemetery, Allee of Georges Gonse.

Then made our way to The Windmill at Pozieres

Then ...... and ..... now

Across the road was The Tank Memorial. Four bronzes at the corners of the simple obelisk are small-scale models of the tanks used from 1916 to 1918.

Here on 15th September 1916 during the battle of Courcelette, the first tanks were used in the war.
They were put into use before they were ready and there were a lot of mechanical problems.
Eventually they proved very effective at Cambrai the following year, 1917. This will be another big battlefield experience for us in 2017.

At Pozieres we also visited the Australian memorial and view point.

Remains of bunkers and tunnelling.

We ended our long day at Thiepval Ridge Memorial and took our first look around in the late evening sunshine.

We know that tomorrow the sun will be on the other side and photos will be different.

The day was ended with a well earned meal and rest after a really tiring and deeply moving day.


Today we started our tour at the Thiepval Memorial. At 45 metres high, it is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world.

Once again, as in some of the other places we visited, we are unable to see it in all its glory as a new visitor centre is being built and the monument is covered in Scaffolding.
It is really disappointing that they have left all this work until the centenary year and also just a short while before the 1st July Commemorations.

We are beginning to wonder if it will all be completed in time!

Looking out over the valley, on the left were the French graves

and on the right, the British graves

A group of young English children from the London area arrived and suddenly amongst all the sadness there was youth, colour, movement, the future.
It was quite moving to experience.
We discussed this with their Teachers who gave us their permission to include this photograph of them.
And then they were gone.

We left Thiepval and travelled the short distance to the Irish Memorial at the Ulster Tower, a replica of Helen's Tower from the Clandeboye Estate in Ireland.
Dorothy decided to sit this one out, to rest her back for a while as we knew the next village was going to be a big tour.

On the hillside Allan spotted yet another memorial Mill Road Cemetery.

A collection of items discovered in the fields around the Tower over the years.

Beaumont Hamel and the Newfoundland memorial managed by the government of Canada was our next visit. Here again a lot of work was being done for the big dignitary visit in July.
This resulted in a long detour and we needed to enter at the rear of the site, missing out the museum which was closed and some other points of specific interest. The following photos show the trenches, shell holes, graves and monuments in this site which covers over 30 hectares.

Although being preserved as a memorial park to the battle, the park somehow looked like a golf course with some very special bunkers. The trees were big and tall, the grass was mown and some of the trenches here were lined with special walkways. There were memorials everywhere. It is however preserved. Where the trenches in this park ended at the fence boundary, in the fields beyond there was nothing to be seen. Just miles and miles of rural farmland.

Whilst there we walked from our side to the German side and back again and along some trenches to a blooming great big Moose on a huge mound of rocks and earth.

This Moose is looking out over the battlefield where, at 9 a.m. 780 men from the Newfoundland Regiment left their trenches but were immediately under German gunfire.
Half and hour later, only 68 men remained unscathed and all of the officers had been killed or wounded. The Newfoundland Regiment had been virtually wiped out with 91 percent dead.
This was one of the bloodiest actions of the Somme.

Two big visits today and with the horrific events going around in our minds, we decided to return to The Thiepval Ridge for the night where we knew parking was easy and we could spend a much needed quiet night.


After two big days and In preparation for tomorrow, we had a quiet morning trying to catch up on the blog. During the afternoon we travelled down through Authuille to ensure that we can park there for tomorrow's visit and then went up to the giant crater called Loghnagar at La Boisselle.

You can just make out our motorhome so this gives you an idea of its size.
This is where our men tunnelled under the German trenches and set a massive explosive under them which exploded at 7.28 in the morning on 1st July 1916 -
known forever as the first day of the Battle of the Somme.


On the 22nd April 1916 a young Irish solder died in Authuille on the battlefields of the Somme.
There is nothing special about him above all the other young men who lost their lives for freedom from oppression.

Eric Bogle wrote a song about him in 1976 called "No Mans Land" also known as the "Green Fields of France" which has been recorded by many artists including the Furey Brothers and Davey Arthur. We wished to pay our respects at the grave of a soldier of the Great War as we obviously can't visit them all - there were 886,342 men from the United Kingdom killed in the War.

Allan decided many years ago that Willie McBride would be the one to represent all of the war casualties.

He was Private William McBride 12/23965 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers known as the Tyrones.
He lived with his parents, Joseph and Lena McBride and 3 sisters at Lislea, Armagh.
William McBride died 100 years ago this very day, today.
We have a little British Legion cross and we will pay our respects to him and to all of the Soldiers, Nurses, Doctors, Labourers, Civilians, indeed everyone and from all Countries and BOTH sides who lost their lives in this terrible event in our history.

This is a fitting end to the Remembrance Trail that we have just taken. We have only just grazed the surface of this terrible, terrible time which has been especially moving for Allan because his father, Arthur Wellesley Martin, served here in the Somme during this period and at Cambrai where we shall be visiting again next year.

We needed some quiet time now and decided to move to Albert where we found a lovely, peaceful spot to stay, between the river and a lake. Our only visitors were the ducks.


It was Market day in Albert today so we spent an hour in the Market.
It started to rain (again!) and so we decided to visit the Basilica whilst we were in front of it. We know we said no more church/cathedral photos but this was so unusual inside.
Everywhere was of marble or tessilated. We have never seen a marble altar and pulpit before. Forgive us while we show these photos!!

We left the Basilica and picked up gas and did a top up shop at SuperU before returning to the lake to relax and then work on our Blog.


Today we visited the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert. This really is one of the best museums that we have ever visited. It is in an Air-raid shelter, in tunnels under the city of Albert.

The displays were incredible.

There was so much to see and read but it was done sympathetically and very well, with no "overload" which becomes too much and you switch off. There really was something for everyone to connect with, be it weapons, ammunition, life in the trenches, life of civilians, catering, nursing (650 nurses were killed in this war), coming to terms with life after the war, to mention but a few.
And the scenes below, at the end of the visit, were really well done.

We were there for about 4 hours but it only seemed about 30 minutes it was so interesting.


The end of an exhausting week, mentally and physically but we are so glad that we made this trip.
Although very tired, Dorothy stepped up and made us a nice roast pork dinner for our Sunday evening meal.


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