Today’s visits were intended to capture the essence of the last few weeks of the First AIF's war.
First stop Mont St Quentin. The 2 Division Memorial and the story of the Mk 1 version of that statue, executed by sculptor Charles Webb Gilbert was discussed.
The original 2 Div monument, a small scale replica of which is on display in L'Historial, became an early casualty of WW2. Lesser known is the fact that Charles Web Gilbert created the first of the legendary AWM dioramas, depicting the battle of Mont St Quentin. Tour leader Steve Larkins also drew attention to the fact that he also executed 'The Bomber' in Broken Hill and the stunning Rose Park Memorial in suburban Adelaide, the figure of which can be seen in the Mont St Quentin diorama.
A short walk away was the vantage point from which a panoramic view of the battlefield enabled Steve to describe the conduct of the battle and the fluid manoeuvre of three divisions that enabled the capture of Mont St Quentin and Peronne.
Next stop, Bellicourt cemetery. Tour leader Steve Larkins pointed out a relative’s grave that of George W H Bush 55th Battalion KIA on 30 September, and the grave of British Lieutenant Colonel Vann VC MC and Bar. A former priest, who instead of becoming a chaplain, enlisted in the Infantry and went on to distinguish himself on three occasions only to fall to a snipers bullet just days afterwards. With a very diverse range of headstones from large numbers of AIF soldiers to Chinese Labour Corps personnel and most Dominions represented, this cemetery is always interesting.
A CWGC team were maintaining graves by spraying fungicide on the headstones and very courteously stopped work while we inspected this beautifully kept cemetery. The team expressed the fact that they enjoyed their work and took great pride in the appearance of the grounds in their care.
Next stop the Bony American cemetery, near the Hindenburg Line, where the interaction of AIF personnel embedded with the US 30th and 27th Divisions resulted in the awarding of six Distinguished Service Crosses, the highest award that can be made to foreign troops, to AIF 'advisers'. These inldued Arthur Errington a hairdresser from Port Adelaide and Boer War veteran.
A quick call to the USA Monument and then to From there just a short hop to the Riqueval tunnel. After a description of the capture of this part of the line lunch was taken in the very pleasant environment of the tunnel portal.
It was here the 5th Division had captured the tunnel portal supported on their right by the British 46th Division which captured the vicinity of the Riqueval Bridge.
Our last stop for the day was the German cemetery at Maissemy. This always has a rather maudlin effect on the mood of the crew and it was all a bit silent running back to Peronne for an early mark which allowed people to have a look around Peronne do laundry and have random beers.
So after a bit of 'make and mend' and taking in the ambience of the lovely town of Peronne before dinner in L’Historial with host Dominic Frere to wrap up our last night in Peronne. Tomorrow it is off to Belgium via Flanders.