Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

Western Front to Normandy Tour on 15 September 2019


Today was intended to take in the key sites of the 1918 battles conducted by the AIF in the Somme sector. So we started with the battles for Dernancourt 28 March - 5 April by the 12th and 13th Brigades.

We travelled from Peronne to Dernancourt where we met by the Chairman of the Centenary of Le Grand Guerrre committee, Monsieur Lionel Lamotte and some of his colleagues. After an explanation of the battles of late March early April 1918 by guide Steve Larkins, we drove a circuit around the battlefield encompassing the 12th Brigade side of the battlefield up as far as the support lines. We travelled from the area of the cemetery along the railway embankment past the point where Sgt McDougal had wrought such deadly effect with a Lewis Gun in both the first and second Battles of Dernancourt.

We then drove through 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. Lionel gave an excellent description of the town and key features such as the light railway at the time of the battle in 1918.

An inspection of an exposition of photographs of the post war reconstruction, housed in the l'eglise (church) followed. We laid a wreath to commemorate the people of Dernancourt who suffered during the Great war, and the soldiers who died in the first and second battles of Dernancourt. We were then treated to a 'pot d'amitie' with the Dernancourt delegation in the Mayor's chambers to culminate a very pleasant morning.

After those formalities it was on the road again to the town of Villers-Bretonneux via Sailly le Sec and the 3 Div Memorial where we commemorated a number of family members of tour participants Yvonne Learmonth and Geoff Kent. Then via Corbie we called at Adelaide Cemetery and a description of the audacious counter attack by the 13th and 15th Brigades on Anzac Day 1918.

We paid our respects to Private George SEARLE of the 25th Battalion killed near Villers Bretonneux in the phase known as 'Peaceful Penetration' in June 1918.

Then it was off to Le Hamel for lunch and a discussion of the significance of the location with its commanding views, and of the battle of 4th July 1918 where Monash proofed his theories of Combined Arms operations.

This was followed by a drive to Cerissy, where we commemorated Sergeant Louis McNamara, MM, MiD of the 1st Division Signals Company interred in the Cerissy-Gailly French Military Cemetery (in the CWGC section) where he died of his wounds sustained near Jeancourt in mid September 1918 just a bare two weeks from the end of the AIF's war, having served throughout. An epitaph by a friend describing this outstanding soldier who had enlisted in August 1914, is about as powerful as they come " ... a very game man; absolutely fearless".

Back to the Roman Road to follow the line of the Roman Road and the axis of advance of the Australian Corps on its approach to the 'Big Bend' of the Somme and Peronne beyond.

Crossing the Somme we proceeded to the heights of Mont St Quentin where guide Steve Larkins described in detail the events that culminated in the capture of this strategically crucial feature and the town of Peronne below, marking the 2nd Division's greatest accomplishment of the war. A walk through the glade at the summit of the Mont returned us to the 2nd Division Memorial.

A short journey back to our hotel afforded a lot of time to catch up on personal administration before we re-convened for dinner in the Gare du Nord restaurant culminating another beautiful day enjoyed by all.


Steve Larkins


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