Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

Western Front to Normandy Tour 16 September 2018


Today was intended to take in the key sites of the 1918 battles undertaken by the AIF in the Somme sector.

We began with a visit to the small village of Millencourt to pay our respects at the grave of Lieutenant Harold Mitchell, killed in the defence of Dernancourt on the 5th April 1918. We were met by a small delegation of local people including the Mayor and members of the Armistice Centenary Association. Harold was a lawyer from Renmark in South Australia initially enlisted as a soldier in the Field Ambulance and then commissioned into Infantry and assigned to the 45th Battalion in the 12th Brigade. His orphaned daughter Roma became the first female Governor of South Australia. And Dame Roma Mitchell was the god mother of current Adelaide Lord Mayor, Martin Hasese.

The Lord Mayor provided a letter of greeting and some small gifts for his French counterparts which were to be presented later.

We then travelled the short distance to Dernancourt where we met Honorary Mayor Monsieur Lionel Lamotte. After a explanation of the battles of late March early April 1918 by guide Steve Larkins, the Mayor guided us though the cemetery to the railway bridge that featured so prominently in the battles of 100 years ago.

From there we walked to the centre of the village to inspect the school with its 'Pavilion Adelaide' named as a result of the fundraising effort to support the re-construction of Dernancourt post war. An inspection of an exposition of photographs followed and then a commemoration and presentation in the Mayor's chambers to culminate a very pleasant morning.

Tour Leader Steve Larkins read the Lord Mayor letter in English then French, handing over to the Mayor the complete the recitation and an exchange of greetings and best wishes.

After those formalities it was on the road again to the town of Villers-Bretonneux. First stop Adelaide Cemetery and a description of the audacious counter attack by the 13th and 15th Brigades on Anzac Day 1918.

A visit was made to the School museum before heading to the site of the National Memorial to the Missing in France and the recently opened Sir John Monash Centre. Everyone agreed that the wait was worth it - it is a fantastic facility and very well presented and at last Australia has a top class interpretive centre on the Western Front.

We paid our respects to Robert Jemison commemorated on the Wall of Remembrance, and to William Henry Sheridan KIA 8 August as a member of the 35th Battalion.

Then it was off to Le Hamel for a discussion of the battle of 4th July 1918 where Monash proofed his theories if Combined Arms operations. This was followed by a drive to Cerissy then across the Somme to Chippilly for a perspective from a key German position that overlooked the left flank of the Australian advance.

With time having blown out at Dernancourt we headed for home and dinner in an excellent restaurant in Peronne.

Tomorrow it is Mont St Quentin and "The Last Ridge" to the end of the war.

Steve Larkins
Battlefield History Tours.


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