Those who have booked on our tours impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions have been contacted. The majority have chosen to travel with us to the same destination at a later date or have been otherwise refunded.
Today we bade farewell to Peronne and to our driver Philippe who having completed his 'days', handed over to Lee to take us up to Belgium via the central sector of the front around Arras.
Our first stop was the small village of Noreuil, one of the so-called Outpost villages. Noreuil was the objective of an attack on 2 April 1917 by the 13th Brigade of the 4th Division, with the 50th and 51st Battalions leading and the other two (49th and 52nd) in reserve.
The 50th Battalion suffered significant losses here including a disproportionate number of its junior officers, many of whom were Gallipoli veterans who had been promoted from the ranks. Included among these men was Lieutenant Wilfrid Oswald Jose, one of a section of men among the first ashore at Gallipoli nearly two years previously. See LINK and Captain Harold Armitage LINK.
The Noreuil 'Australian Cemetery' is largely comprised of the graves of men of the 50th and 51st Battalions killed in the attack. It is also notable for 82 headstones along two sides of the cemetery as memorials to men formerly believed to have been buried in the cemetery but whose original graves were lost in subsequent fighting in the area. See this LINK.
From there our group headed to Bullecourt to view the Bullecourt Digger statue, the Slouch Hat memorial and the Percy Black Memorial. We viewed the battlefield over which the attacks of 10-12 April and 3-17 May were conducted.
From Bullecourt we continued our journey north the Canadian National Memorial at Vimy Ridge which never fails to impress visitors, including ours. The adjacent area, like Beaumont Hamel in the Somme, is well preserved and re-creations of the trench lines amidst the original mine and shell craters is very well done indeed. The Visitors Centre has been re-developed since the last time Guide Steve Larkins visited.
Most powerful though is the spectacular monument dominating the skyline and commanding wonderful views to the north, making it immediately apparent why possession of it was so important.
After lunch here, taken with some very well-mannered and well behaved junior school students from Tidworth in the UK, and their teachers, we headed for Fromelles, via Orchard Dump cemetery where Peter Neuhaus located a relative, Marcel Andre Simon, who died as a 2ndLT aged just 18, serving in the British Army.
Fromelles is now a well-known battle and one of our number, Peter Reichelt, laid a small tribute to his Great Uncle Joseph Stead of the 32nd Battalion whose remains were among those discovered in the Mass Grave at Pheasant Wood in 2008. See this LINK.
From Fromelles it was north once again to our final destination for the day and our accommodation at Flanders Lodge in Ieper. After stashing our gear we had a quick dinner and headed for the Last Post Ceremony, following which some of us opted for an early night and others decided to sample the nightlife of Ieper.