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Somme


Cassis

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Just a quickie.  Today is the 90th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.  Spare a thought for those who died, if you can.  If you're ever passing through Picardie, a visit to the battlefields and cemeteries is a very moving experience.  Albert makes a good base for a stay for a few days.

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Would add some of my must-see sites here:

Historial de la Grande Guerre museum at Péronne (excellent modern museum with explanations in three languages)
Musée 1916 at Albert, beneath the basilica of the famous "leaning madonna" (atmospheric layout in shelters below the town, reconstructed dugouts etc, scary battlefield sound experience at the end!)
Lochnagar Crater at La Boisselle, near Pozières, NE of Albert, signposted "La Grande Mine" (huge, deep hole in the ground from one of the enormous mine explosions on 1 July 1916)
Thiepval Memorial, N of Albert (French and Commonwealth cemeteries, and thousands of names of the missing ont he pillars of the massive memorial which is visible above the trees for miles around; also excellent new visitor centre about British involvement in Battle of the Somme)
Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel, N of Albert (still some preserved trenches beneath the bronze statue of a moose; interesting visitor centre about the dreadful losses of Newfoundland troops on 1/7/1916).
Memorials: the Welsh dragon at Mametz, E of Albert;  artilleryman and wounded horse at Chipilly, S of Albert;  Australian "digger" at Mont St Quentin, N of Péronne...

Angela

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We passed the battlefield on our way home on 1st July, and I spent a moment reflecting on the 20 men from Carshalton who fell on the first day, especially two brothers, David and Thomas Kirby, and all of those other places and families so deeply touched by the battle.

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Not quite, Pat.  It was indeed a First World War song but composed by a British officer.  This is lifted from the First World War website .  I don't know if the links to the recordings will work when I post it.  EDIT: Yes, they do.

Reproduced below are the

lyrics to the popular song Roses of Picardy,

penned by British officer Frederick E. Weatherley (music by Haydn Wood) in

1916.

An instant popular

favourite and performed widely, a film of the same name - and based around

the First World War - was produced in 1927.

The song was invariably

sung by British soldiers who had left behind a sweetheart when they enlisted

(or were conscripted) for the Front in France and Flanders.  However

the song was written by Weatherley after he had conceived an affection for a

French widow while receiving protection at her home in France.

Two versions of the song

are available here: the first (click

here
,
MP3 format 905kb)

was performed by Ernest Pike in 1917; the second (click

here
,
MP3 format 406kb)

was rendered by John McCormack in 1919.


Roses of Picardy

She is watching by the

poplars

Colinette with the sea blue eyes

She is watching and longing and waiting

Where the long white roadway lies

And a song stirs in the silence

As the wind in the boughs above

She listens and starts and trembles

'Tis the first little song of love

Roses are shining in

Picardy

In the hush of the silver dew

Roses are flowering in Picardy

But there's never a rose like you

And the roses will die with the summer time

And our roads may be far apart

But there's one rose that dies not in Picardy

'Tis the rose that I keep in my heart

And the years fly on

forever

Til the shadows veil their sighs

But he loves to hold her little hand

And look in her sea blue eyes.

And he sees the rose by the poplars

Where they met in the bygone years

For the first little song of the roses

Is the last little song she hears

She is watching by the

poplars

Colinette with the sea blue eyes

She is watching and longing and waiting

Where the long white roadway lies

And a song stirs in the silence

As the wind in the boughs above

She listens and starts and trembles

'Tis the first little song of love.

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[quote user="Loiseau"]

Thiepval Memorial, N of Albert (French and Commonwealth cemeteries, and thousands of names of the missing ont he pillars of the massive memorial which is visible above the trees for miles around; also excellent new visitor centre about British involvement in Battle of the Somme)
[/quote]

Anyone contemplating a visit to the new visitor centre should be aware there has been a spate of vehicle break-ins, especially targetted are Brit registered cars. If using the car park, avoid parking near the embankments.

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Well said, SS...

I should have added that there is a tendency for thieves to target vehicles left in the car parks where the occupants have obviously gone off on a visit or walk (not surprising - warning notices in Richmond Park and other UK beauty spots show that this regrettable activity is rife in the UK too!).
The car park at Thiepval has been cunningly designed not to intrude into the landscape, with grassy embankments all round it - which provides perfect cover for thieves, of course...  At Beaumont-Hamel, there were burly security guards at the car park opposite the Memorial Park when I visited. 

So before leaving your car, be sure you have not left any items visible in it;  in any case, always take anything of value (handbag, passports, travel documents, money, cameras etc) with you rather than leave them in the vehicle (even concealed).  [:(]

Angela

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[quote user="Loiseau"]

So before leaving your car, be sure you have not left any items visible in it;  in any case, always take anything of value (handbag, passports, travel documents, money, cameras etc) with you rather than leave them in the vehicle (even concealed). 

[/quote]

I think this applies wherever you are parked!  It's not unique to the war memorial sites, though they may have been in the news.

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Oh yes, we were there at Amiens, Thiepval & the Ulster Memorial just in March. I signed the books at the gates too. Just couldnt help wondering, there dont seem to be enough graves in the cemeteries for the well over million-odd boys who died. Are many undiscovered still?. The French look after our fellows well though dont they?.
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http://www.cwgc.org/

This is a great website.

As I said on another post, it made my son think when he could find young men that had died with the same name and initials as him.

Great for family research too.

I used to think my family must have been good runners until I looked at this site.

 

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All British and Empire war graves are maintained both in theatre and for those who died at home, by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The general plan was for Imperial cemeteries to be 'like an English country garden'. The land for the cemeteries was donated by France or Belgium to the British Empire in perpetuity.

Many hundreds of thousands of men are still missing. All of the names on the Thiepval Memorial, the curtain wall at Tyne Cot and the Menin Gate are of the missing; the known are buried under their names, or 'Known unto God' if unknown.

About two dozen bodies are found and reburied each year, nowadays few are identified. If an identifiable body is found, the soldier's name is removed from the memorials to the missing.

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First time I've had time to get near the computer since 30th June. The Somme has been packed with people from all over the world attending various ceremonies, it was fantastic to see so many people wanting to pay their respects.

We had 1,800 visitors and 52 coaches on the1st July at Delville Wood, certainly kept us busy!  Sadly we didn't have any friends calling into see us as our village was in the middle of the security zone! On the positive side the bomb disposal squad actually came round for the first time in a few years and removed the various shells we had dug up in the garden, including the gas shell I'd called them about a dozen times! Now I need a week to recover!

 

Kiera

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Hi Kiera,

Do you work at the Delville Wood site?  I passed through earlier in the year - but a bit late to spend more than 2 minutes looking at the small exhibition in the tea-room before being thrown out!  But I did think the main South African memorial/museum very moving and well done.

Angela

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Hi Angela,

Yes, both myself and my husband work there during busy periods and also when the curators are on holiday. It is a lovely place, even better when we cover for the summer holidays (you have to stay in the house on the edge of the wood) I get up v. early and feed the deer on the edge of the wood! The couple who have run it for the past twenty odd years are retiring in September, and I have a feeling that the embassy will appoint new relief curators - so I think that was my last stint there... except maybe for a week or two in August

Kiera

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For those of you with an interest, I can highly recommend "The Somme Battlefields: a comprehensive guide from Crecy to the two world wars", by Martin and Mary Middlebrook.

Very interesting, well written and icredibly well researched, with "then and now" photos, and a host of info that really makes you think.

I bought it just after I saw the 80th anniversary celebrations on TV here in the UK. Since then, I have visited many areas, and taken my sons to a few, instilling in them the same awe and respect for those who died, from both sides.

A very interesting visit is to a GERMAN first world war cemetery. There is one near Arras containing the BODIES of 70.000 men, not just names.

Put into perspectrive, the largest British WW1 cemetery is, I believe, at Tyne Cot in Belgium, and has nearly 12,000 graves.

It's very saddening to see how dark, and triste the German cemeteries are, with 4 or 5 names on each marker. The French, probably rightly, were unwilling to give the Germans much land to bury THEIR dead.

If you can, try and visit a small cemetery by moonlight, preferably one in the middle of fields...........talk about moving!

Alcazar

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[quote user="Cathy"]

Such a waste of too many young lives.

Can't anyone tell the modern day politicians not to go to war?  How come when a million marched on London, we still went to Iraq?

[/quote]

It's just part of T.B Liar's "legacy" to us, his subjects.[:@]

Along with useless pensions, restrictive laws, a country practically run by the PC brigade, a crumbling NHS...........

Alcazar

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A couple of years ago I visited a WW2 German cemetary in Luxembourg, similar story of multiple names on each stone plus a huge granite block marking thousands of un named dead. It was very sobering and immaculately kept. The contrast with the nearby USA war cemetary was incredible. Somewhat annoying to see the US memorial stating that WW2 was 1942 to 1945.

Regards

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I think that you will find, Alcazar, that the 70,000 refers to the ossuary and not to graves. Not really sure about the point you are making there with your emphasis.

German war cemeteries are conceptually different - in fact that is true of those of all combatants - and are meant to represent a peaceful forest environment, compared to the Empire 'English Garden' and the much more formal American. The French are also pretty formal, but often with personalised memorials.

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The only thing I was trying to get across, Dick, was that the French refused the Germans much land to bury their dead, (and could anyone blame them, at the time?), so their cemeteries contain many more actual bodies than ours, even if only in an ossuary.

There are very few Allied graves with more than one body in them........in German cemeteries, it's the norm.

Otherwise, not making any point, other than sadness forthose who fought for BOTH sides, as they were conned.......

Alcazar

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Alcazar, there are many German cemetries left, especially on the Somme, it is just that the headstones no longer exisit in great numbers. Although the French did give the Germans a limited timescale to remove their dead, those that were left were not destroyed, At Le Sars the german divisional memorial is there and the land around it still contains the german graves from the cemeteries. At Courcelette the German cemetery is next to the site of the exisiting civilain cemetery. Here one German headstone survives, and has been placed in the communal cemetery and is maintained by the commune. Many of the German cemeteries such as Courcelette was were destroyed by artillery fire (in 1916) as the lines moved, so moving the bodies into concentrated cemeteries was not always possible.

If you look in CWGC cemeteries and see headstones in a line that touch, usually with a cross on the centre stone, that is indicative of a mass burial, it happened on all sides. Ossuaries and mass graves are more acceptable in France and Germany, whereas in England it was seen as normal where possible to bury bodies in induvidual graves.

Kiera

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If that's the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge cemetery at  Neuville-St-Vaast, Alcazar, it's the largest German WWI cemetery in France and was established by the French military authorities between 1919 and 1923 to serve as a collection site for German war casualties from the regions north and east of Arras. The site was redesigned and reorganised between 1975 and 1983. On the plaque outside, it says that it is now the final resting place for about 44,830 German soldiers killed in action.

It is indeed a "peaceful forest environment", with the graves marked by spindly black crosses instead of the chunky stone crosses that you often see elsewhere.

Angela

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[quote user="Alcazar"]

For those of you with an interest, I can highly recommend "The Somme Battlefields: a comprehensive guide from Crecy to the two world wars", by Martin and Mary Middlebrook.

[/quote]

Good Lord - I've got the very book!  Very comprehensive, if a bit dry.

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