Sunday, 29 October 2017

Visit to the Lochnagar crater and battlefields of the Somme

 We've been working on World War One since 2014 but nothing prepared us - well, me at least - for the Somme battlefields. The horror somehow still persists. The Lochnagar crater (a failed attempt to blow up the German lines on 1/7/16) is stunningly big - you can tell from the size of the trees on the far side.
A few yards away are the fields that tens of thousands of soldiers ran across to their death. We know that William Gendall Jenkin and his fellow soldiers from St Agnes (click here for more) died near Fricourt. Cecil Calvert, Camborne School of Mines student, died near Albert after trying to rescue men trapped in a tunnel. But there were so many others whose stories will never be told. Tens of thousands of bodies were never recovered.  The Lochnagar crater was bought by an Englishman who was keen that it should be preserved as a reminder of what had happened and as a tribute to those who died. Until recently (when the last of the veterans died) there were men who visited this place annually on the anniversary of the battle and stood in silence to remember those who had been killed.

 As you walk around the Lochnagar crater the number of names is overwhelming - but these are just  a tiny fraction of those who died. This man was a long way from home. 

 The Commonwealth War Grave Commission's graveyards are so impressive - visually and they are immaculately maintained. A photo as below is a stark reminder of what graves would have looked like at the time. Men were buried where they fell, with makeshift markers.  This is near Mametz Wood (not far from Fricourt).