TERRE-NEUVIEN

26th April and still a bit tired after yesterday. What to do? Where to go?

First stop was up the road to Albert to get the day’s bread and wine and cheese plus some chicken for coq au vin. Then to a  huge crater just a short distance north. This was where mines under the German trench were blown up. The crater is huge and there’s a walking path around it. One tribute is to a soldier whose body was found there in 1998.

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A group kids was hogging the explanatory board, being lectured by their teacher – Germans.

I’d seen images of the memorial to the Newfoundland soldiers who took part in the first day of the battle of the Somme – 1st July 1916. 710 out of a bit over 800 died or were wounded. A massacre.

So we headed up the road a bit to where a large area is set aside – a memorial park – and you can see the pattern of trenches – all green now – but a path is marked so you don’t wander over areas where unexploded ordinances may be lodged. No good to be blown up 100 years after the main event! French school kids were there in force.

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It’s moving to see these shallow trenches and imaging them without the soft green grasses there now. They are less shallow now by about two feet but even so, they wouldn’t give much protection. Scattered between them are shell holes. This is the are of mud and wet ground, treeless and forbidding. The worst pictures of Somme fighting could have been shot here.

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Small grave yards and monuments to the Newfoundlanders and to the Scots who took the area some time later are there too. A caribou for the  colonists and a tall highlander for the Scots.

We met a lovely young Canadian sent there by the Canadian government to be a host at the site. She was there to hand out info and answer questions. Could be a good model for us at sites – a better use of some of the squillions we’ve spent on commemoration.

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Freezing cold so off to find some lunch. That was in a town called Auchonvillers and it had been discovered by loads of Poms and, as we left, a tour of Australians. It was very English in approach but we resisted the chips and the chip butty for soup and salad.

A bit lost on the way home. Map reading 1:01 failed me a bit but it didn’t take too long and we were heading back to Albert and then to Lavievielle.

It’s warming up inside after a five minute snow storm. Spring?

I read in the SMH that Sydney is still having unusual hot weather.

One can always console oneself with French pastries.

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