Monday, 18 September 2017

A last look at the White Cliffs of Dover and the battlefields of the Somme


Leaving from Newhaven and looking back - not sure at all whether World War One troops left via this route. (The idea is to follow up some of the stories featured in our WW1 project, Heart of Conflict).
But what a last view of home.
From Dieppe, follow up very modern motorways to Amiens and beyond.
First stop: Albert, the heart of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1016. What do people who live here now think of this?
The town - and all the villages around - are totally reconstructed. This was the Front Line for so many years.
The crater at Lochnagar moved me to tears. It is so huge - the scale of the trees on the far edge show just how big it is. However: the explosion was just short of the German lines. British generals had hoped that this huge crater (still one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever) would blast the Germans from their trenches. It killed many - but didn't ensure a successful attack. Far from it. More than 6,000 British soldiers were mown down by German bullets as they advanced.


Many years later, an eye witness said that he had entered packed German trenches soon after the explosion and seen many many men killed by concussion, due to huge tremors caused by the explosion.
But the German line held in many places. The inscription on this bench is poignant: 'From Friends Who Visit To Friends Who Remain'.
An Englishman bought the crater site so that the French farmer who owned it wouldn't fill it in. It is now a hugely moving and endearing monument to the dead.




Loved the inscription on this: added flowers to the hook someone
had screwed on to the board

















In nearby Pozieres  - a German stronghold - we find a memory of a soldier from Camborne. H.Y. Buscombe, who  - from memory - was at Camborne School of Mines.
There are only (!) 2,000 graves here, but it seems as if there are many, many more.
For the first time the scale of the slaughter becomes clear. All around the area are cemeteries, sited where battalions killed their dead. So many.
The memorial at Thiepval, designed by Edward Lutyens, is extraordinary.
Arrived during a thunderstorm and downpour so did not take photos. But am sure that professionals have done better (a quick Google search will demonstrate, am sure).
Pozieres cemetery: British dead during the Somme

H.Y. Buscombe of Camborne (I believe) on the Pozieres memorial