Saturday, November 18, 2017

3rd November 2017 - WWI battlefields trip visiting the Somme

The Battle of the Somme began on a summer’s day in July 1916 and ended in a snowstorm four and a half months later.

We started our day in the Somme at Peronne where we visited the Historial de la Grande Guerre museum which set the tone for our two days touring the WWI battlefields.

I had made some notes from my father's war record which I showed to our guide Tim Thurlow.  As a result Tim very kindly made a small detour through Ginchy which is where my father was wounded on the 15th September 1916.  I was told that Edward Tennant, the nephew of Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, also in the Grenadier Guards, was killed in the same battle on the day my father was wounded.  This day was also when the British introduced tanks into the war.  The following map shows the location of Ginchy.

We then visited Delville Wood, known as Devil’s Wood, where the South Africans fought their deadliest ever battle in WWI.  Delville Wood is now the resting place of the South Africans who gave their lives in order to preserve freedom.  This cemetery was special to me as I was born in South Africa.  Delville Wood is also the grave of thousands of British and German soldiers.

Newfoundland Memorial Park was our next stop.  The site was purchased by the Dominion of Newfoundland after the First World War. It was named after the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, which had provided one battalion of 800 men to serve with the British and Commonwealth Armies. It's tragic part in the action of 1 July 1916 is remembered through this memorial park. The site is also a memorial to all the Newfoundlanders who fought in the First World War, most particularly those who have no known grave.  It also preserves the memory of the men of the many other regiments from the French, British and German Armies who fought and died on this part of the Somme battleground from September 1914 into 1918.

Newfoundland Memorial Park became a province of Canada in 1949.  Here there were grassy mounds which were the remains of trenches.  Seeing the Newfoundland Memorial Park was also special to me because of my links with Canada.

We then went to La Boisselle where we saw Lochnagar which is the largest British mine crater surviving on the battlefields.  My picture does not do the size of this crater justice.

The last stop of the day was at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which commemorates more than 72,000 missing soldiers on the Somme in WWI.

After this we left France and went back to our hotel in Belgium.  The day had been very fulfilling but also tiring because we had spent twelve hours touring round.  I kept thinking about my father and all he had been through.

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