This was the big day in the Somme, a very interesting and memorable day for all. From small services to fossicking around at Le Hamel and many visits in between. Our cut lunches arrived at 0830 as did our coach with Christian at the helm. We then headed out to Dernacourt where we discussed that famous victory that stopped the German advance, including that famous charge that finally put the Germans to flight. The morning was fresh and clear, it is good to be on the ground early as one gets a very good perspective of what went before, all those years ago.
Following those discussions we moved to the Dernacourt Community Cemetery to the grave of Lt Col Leane, CO 48 Bn, who was so tragically killed when walking along a duckboard and a shell exploded overhead. He was an excellent leader and thought so highly of by his men that they all chipped in to have a marble slab installed over his grave. The only grave of its kind on the Western Front. We also viewed the grave of an OSS operative who had been dropped into France in some clandestine operation but she had not survived.
Moving on to La Boiselle, the Lochnager crater, certainly obtained the group's attention. The group was very interested in the crater and the way it had formed. They thought it excellent that Robert Dunning , the Englishman had purchased the site in the 70's so that it always remained as a memory to those who had perished.
We then moved down to Pozieres for a presentation and a look at the ground. It is hard to visualize the destruction of the town and the loss of life. Australian had 23,000 casualties in just 6 weeks. One only thinks of the fighting troops, but just imagine the load put on the medical corps in trying to deal with that vast number of casualties, it is difficult to visualize that task. The Windmill was another area of sacrifice before we moved to The Thiepval Memorial with its 75,000 names inscribed detailing all those with an unknown grave in the Somme where they started to realise the full sacrifice that was part of the Battle of the Somme.
Beaumont Hamel with the original trench layout was well received and we all went down to the 51st Highland Division Memorial to view the battlefield from the German's perspective.
Leaving Beaumont Hamel we proceeded to Bancourt Cemetery, near Bapaume where we visited the grave of 2215 R B Melville, 58Bn. A small service was conducted by the School on behalf of a friend of the school from the Newcastle area who was related to Private Melville but is not in a position travel to the Western Front himself. A few photos of this service are included with this story.
Visiting Villers-Bretonneux was well received and all were most impressed with the museum and the writing in the school "Do not forget Australia". We moved to the Australian Memorial were we again conducted a small service to pay our respects to a lost soldier who had a relative on our coach.
We finished our day in the field with all fossicking in the dirt around the Australian Memorial Park at Le Hamel. A very full memorable day completed by an excellent dinner in the new Mercure Hotel Cathedral.
Tomorrow the Belmont Christian College moves north to Ieper and the 2 coaches in Paris, gather their people and move north to Assevillers.
Colonel Graham Fleeton.