A Sommeber Day

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Flag of France  , Champagne-Ardenne,
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just when we thought the weather couldn't be more perfect, today it rained and was cold. We began our day at Villers-Bretonneaux, probably the most successful campaign for the Australian. It was one of the battles that turned the tide on the Western Front in 1918. First stop the Adelaide Cemetery, burial site for many of the Australian soldiers who died during the battle. Next a visit to the Victoria school where the musee Franco-Australian is housed in the top floor of the school. The school was built in 1927 by donations from Victorians. Finally we visited the Australian Memorial, a much larger cemetery with a lot more crosses, not just of Australians. The human sacrifice clearly evident.

Lunch in Albert at the Restaurant Basilique, recommended by Dominique, our hostess from the previous night. A two course lunch, can't remember the first courses but we both had the pork fillet with a cheese sauce, washed down with a bottle of  Petit Chablis.

Our next stop was the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont Hamel. This is the site where the Newfoundland regiment had a 'Gallipoli' experience. Miscommunication and poor judgenment by the persons in charge resulted in a disastrous 'push forward' that gained nothing and caused the death of a third of the regiment. Here you can walk through the remains of actual trenches, looking a little softer than they did during the war but still giving a clear picture of the scenario on the day of battle. At this time Newfoundland was an independent dominion, not part of Canada as it is now. Of the 800 soldiers, roughly 300 were injured and 300 were killed on the one day, and the furthest any soldier reached was less than 100m from the front line of their trenches. It is interesting to note that Canada provided guides to the site, the young lady that escorted us was a uni student working for the Canadian Dept of Veterans Affairs.

As we continued our drive towards Pozieres we passed memorial after memorial, the Ulster, the British, the Connaugh,t were just a few. Within a one kilometre radius of  Pozieres, Australia lost over 5200 soldiers. More than on any other small battlefield. There are two memorials to Australians in Pozieres, a village so small there are virtually no shops. However, the Australians are remembered. This battle lead to the capture of a few other strategic locations which were significant in the battle against the Germans.

Then we visited the Lochnagar crater. This is about 80 metres in diameter and more than 20 metres deep. It is the site site of a major bomb explosion. When visiting, the first thought is what would it have been like to be here when the explosion happened. Clearly everything in the vicinity would have been obliterated. It is hard to believe that they could muster the power of this explosion given the primitive nature of many of the other weapons.

This was our last stop in the Somme. In a small area, so many lives lost, so many cemeteries, memorials and museums. It is a small area with so many stories.

From here we made our way to our next night's accommodation more than an hours drive away at Chateuea de Fere at Fere en Tardenois. The Chateau turns out to be adjacent to a medieval ruin of a chateau of the same name, complete with moat.
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