We’re here on July 1—exactly 102 years to the day since the bloodiest battle in British history began. The world was a different place in 1914, he says. People didn’t go far from home. They thought the war was a bit of excitement, glamour, a lark. The belief was the regular army was going to win the war pretty quickly and they’d be home by Christmas. Consequences were staggering. The joined together, fought together—and died together, devastating hometowns. Vic says the Brits and Allies do make some ground during the battle, four and a half months of slaughter for an advance of less than 10 miles. But the lessons learned will eventually help end the war
The Canadian Memorial at Courcelette stands at the centre of a circular memorial park in remembrance of Canadians who fought in this area during the battle. One of the good days in the Battle of Somme is Sept. 15 when the Canadians forced back the Germans on these slopes and hold their position.
At Lochnagar Crater, the world’s largest man-made crater, an ovesize, bright red poppy dominates the middle of the green grass covering the crater where the Battle of the Somme started when the British exploded the mine to start the battle.
We visit cemeteries and monuments including the huge Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, one of the Somme’s most well known sites. At 45 metres high, 72,205 names of the missing are engraved in its stone pillars, giving the sheer scale of the missing men.
Perhaps the most poignant moment is the ceremony at Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, commemorating the Newfoundland Regiment in WWI. We hear how the Royal Newfoundland Regiment tucked their shoulders into their chins, almost instinctively like they were fighting a blizzard at home in Newfoundland, but no match for German guns. Within 30 minutes, only 68 members of the regiment are left to answer roll call. The Newfoundland government established a memorial park on the site and one can poignantly see the battlefield trenches still in the landscape and climb to the top of the hill by the symbolic caribou statue and gaze out into history.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball speaks at the ceremony on this day, telling of the cut so deep in his province, that changed the course of their history forever.
At ceremony’s end, we drive the 100 km to Le Crotoy, surprised by the change in the countryside, to arrive in a seaside town. After checking in to O Mylle Douceurs, we walk to Le Mascaret for one of the best meals of the trip, strolling up a beach boardwalk on the way home.
The Somme region. Early morning came and we met with Vic, our guide for the day. He took us to the Somme museum in Albert. It had lots of really neat exhibits. Then we went to a big crater (Lochnaber, or something like that) that was made in the First World War, that now serves as a memorial. We traveled from memorial to memorial after that. All along the way Vic told us all sorts of interesting stories about the war, soldiers and the discoveries that still happen years later. To end the day, we went to a ceremony to remember Beaumont-Hamel. It’s a battle where the Newfire regiment got massacred (68/800 men survived), it was both very sad and very nice.