It was our first day in our new ‘home’. What to do? Where to go? A glance at the map said that one of the nearest towns was Corbie and as it features in my book, we decided to pay a visit. It’s also on the way to Villers Bretonneux so that could be our next port of call.
The drive was our first real sight of the flat not quite rolling farm land that is wherever one looks in this region. And green, so green. It’s like Ireland in it’s intensity and where it’s not green, it’s golden. It looks, from a distance, like canola but as we found out it’s actually rape.
We were heading for the local market and there it was in the centre of the town. We shivered walking past all the summer clothes and scant underwear on display. Then the veggies: lots of artichokes the size of rockmelons, carrots and beans and onions of every size and colour. Then fish stands and others cooking chickens.
The tourist office was beyond helpful. A charming young man found every reference for us that we could possibly use and pointed out displays. And what a display: Le Pain de Guerre!
Posters told the story of the bakers making and delivering bread to the thousands and thousands of men at the front. The story told from both sides of the conflict. There was even a cartoon showing the Bosch beaten by a good loaf of French bread!
Then there were items made from bread – weapons and outfits including a slouch hat. Enough to make an Ozzie heart glow.
We picked up maps and brochures including the one highlighting a week of Anzac activities form bike rides to Aussie Rules matches.(including one female one)
The tourist office also had a model of the Australian Memorial where we’ll be on Anzac Day. It’s half way between Corbie and Villers Bretonneux and is pretty impressive.
We then drove the handful of kilometres to Villers Bretonneux. The battle for this town is the first chapter in my book and I was trying to see it as I imagined it back then, a village fought over a number of times and then liberated on Anzac day, 1918. It was effectively destroyed and yet now …
My mind’s eye constantly tries to obliterate the greenery and the solidity of buildings recreated post 1918. Sometimes I can do it, but it’s not easy. Sometimes I am caught by an image on a poster and my throat contracts and tears well.
We’ll be back here many times for the visit to the school and then for the Anzac day ceremony. We need to be seated by about 3am!