This was to be our last day on the Battlefields of the Somme before we head back into Paris and then to prepare for more travelling, visiting relatives over here or heading home to family back there.
Interesting, but our last day on the Battlefield was also the last day for the Australian Corps 100 year ago to the day. We were to spend the day in Montbrehain, a seldom visited village by tours and by individual guides, it should not have been so as this was the last village that the Australians, 2nd Division at that time, cleared the invading German Army. We had been on the Western Front since 1916 and now after those resounding victories under Monash throughout the Somme, here was our last fight. But again, no victory comes without casualties and there were 400 plus here. 42 who lost their lives in this last battle were wearing the A for ANZAC on their shoulder. To come through so much and then to fall on the last day is more than one could believe, but, tragically true.
Before arriving at Montbrehain our groups had a few things still to do. Ron had a grave visit as did Steve but both completed their programmes and we all met at High Trees Cemetery, on the last ridge, where we conducted a Service there for those lost in that last battle. David, the owner of the farm alongside opened his home for our ladies to have a special visit. He and his wife are great friends of mine since we first met in 2002. Lunch followed the Service and then we proceeded into Montbrehain as the Pipes and Drums were the stars of the day and without them I feel the day would have suffered. Getting into Montbrehain was an issue as the plan had changed since Geoff and I attended a briefing the previous day and instead of parking the coaches in an area acceptable and hidden but close to all the activities, we were told to park 2 klm away. I left the van parked near the barrier, with 2 coaches following, sought the Mayor and insisted we park at the previous location. He was not happy as we must realise he was under extreme pressure due to the VIPs who were to attend.
We got our way, barriers parted and we parked in the excellent spot behind the Church. Good outcome for all. The Pipes and drums had a full programme from 1340 until 1645 when we made our way back out through another barrier and headed to Peronne for our last dinner before heading to Paris in the morning. But before we left there was the entertainment while the crowd gathered at the village Memorial, then after wreath laying there, leading the procession to the Hotel de Ville for extended speeches, the unveiling of a special plaque and wreath laying with the Pipes and Drums playing a beautiful Lament. Then, they again led the procession back through the village to the Calvaire Cemetery where they supported the Service there with again, a beautiful Lament. It was quite hot and they had marched over a kilometre in the heat and were grateful for the water I had pre positioned at the back of the cemetery. Children of the village laid a cross on every grave to conclude the Service.
This time the Pipes and Drums led the procession from the cemetery to the corner where all went into the village hall for more speeches and presentations. At this stage we boarded our coaches and made our way "home".