The cold is easing so off to Hamel, the site of the first battle fully organise by Monash. It took 93 minutes. Australian and American forces advanced over a 5 or 6 mile front, through the village and up over a hill held by the Germans. We went up there to an Australian Memorial Park where scenes explaining the battle are put into display cabinets as you walk around. It’s all very moving as you look down over the ground up which the men advanced.
Then there’s a granite memorial with grateful words of Clemenceau there.(The Prime Minister of France at the time.)
On then to Villers Bretonneux. We were hungry so ate in another Mr Kebab restaurant, shopped in an Aldi (they are everywhere!) and then up to the memorial. It’s so impressive: rows of simple white stones with names and ranks shown and then on some there is a simple statement. These were, I believe, submitted by family. On some stones there is simply ‘a soldier of the Great War.’ The stones are white and there are flowers everywhere, growing in front of the stones. It’s Spring and all are in colour now.
We climbed the tower and you can see for miles – lots of villages and small townships and between them the fields of green and gold.
The museum is there in the school hall and we wandered around more images of soldiers in all kinds of situations. They were lying on the grass eating their lunch, buying chocolate off a French woman or simply standing around in the ruins of various French villages. There were cabinets displaying the objects from a soldiers pack and others showing personal souvenirs such as crocheted samplers from the region.
Some sheets had reproductions of soldiers – portrait photos – with no names known.
Tomorrow I’ll be emailing the teacher who I have arranged to meet at the school on Thursday.