A tour of some of Australia’s War Memorials

We’ve just been sent this lovely piece from one of our blog readers who took a trip to Australia earlier in the year.

The tour began in Melbourne, Victoria, with a visit to the Shrine of Remembrance set among the lush and beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. 114,000 Victorians enlisted in the First World War. Of the 89,000 of them who served abroad 19,000 were killed. They were buried in distant graves far from home at a time when most Australians did not travel abroad. The Shrine provided a place where Victorians could grieve as individuals, as families or as a community. It also served to honour the courage of the men, women and children who remained at home.

The shrine was built by public subscription at a time of considerable national hardship in Australia as in Britain. The inspiration for the external outline came from one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the mausoleum at Halicarnassus to Mausolus, King of Caria in South West Asia Minor. It was opened by the Duke of Gloucester in November 1934 in front of a crowd of  300,000.

The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

The shrine is equally spectacular inside, but achieves a profound sense of calm conducive to remembrance of the ANZACs who gave their lives in two world wars and in subsequent conflicts.

The great vault of the Shrine of Remembrance open to the sky

Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in December 1914 and was heavily engaged in the disastrous British-led campaign in the Dardanelles. Otherwise known as the Gallipoli campaign, the very word has a deep resonance for Australians. In keeping with the composition of the ANZAC, the flags of Australia and New Zealand hand vertically facing each other inside the shrine.

The flags of Australia and New Zealand within the Shrine

James Lawson was born in Halifax, Yorkshire and went to Australia in 1905. On 20 August 1914, just weeks after the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and was commissioned second lieutenant in the 4th Light Horse Regiment. He served first on Gallipoli and later in Sinai and Palestine. In May 1917 he was promoted major and placed in command of A Squadron. On 31 October 1917 Lawson’s squadron, and another from the 12th Light Horse Regiment, led the charge at Beersheba. Lawson’s regiment later took part in the capture of Damascus led by General Allenby in September 1918. He returned home in January 1919 and lived out his life in Wimmera, Victoria, a modest but much admired and respected citizen.

major James Lawson, 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment
in the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Vic.

Sergeant James Offord of Bendigo, Victoria, enlisted in the 4th Light Horse Regiment and served in the Sinai-Palestine campaign, and was awarded the Military Medal. He made a souvenir of a Turkish flag after the battle of Beersheba, 31 October 1917.

Turkish Flag from Beersheba in the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Vic.

Also in the Shrine is one of the only two landing craft to survive from Gallipoli: the other is at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

A Gallipoli landing craft

 

Troops of the Australian 4th Battalion landing at Anzac Cove, 25 April 1915
Public Domain image : Australian War Memorial, ID Number: P00035.001

Northwards into upstate Victoria and  seemingly every city, town and village has its war memorial, always lovingly cared for and usually surrounded with trees and flowers. In Bendigo, the domed war memorial lies a few hundred metres from the cenotaph. Bendigo’s wealth came from the Victorian gold rush of the 1850’s and the town centre is a filled with elegant buildings from that time and later.

Bendigo, Victoria: The War Memorial and Cenotaph

At the end of World War One, the small rural community of Tooborac raised £600 by public subscription to remember the seventeen soldiers who did not return. The memorial consists of a granite column with a white marble figure of a soldier standing to attention.

Three views of the War Memorial at Tooborac, Victoria

On the Murray River, which forms the border between Victoria and the state of New South Wales, lies the town of Echuca. It was once a thriving trans-shipment point for the steam-driven paddle steamers bringing cargo hundreds of miles up the river from the sea near Adelaide. It is now a flourishing tourist centre and a welcoming place to visitors from England. Here, the memorials to the men who fell in the South African wars, as well as the two world wars and later conflicts, are grouped together outside the quiet  of the public library against a backdrop of the gum trees along the river. The memorial remembers all those from the Echuca District who went to fight, not only those who did not return.

The War Memorials at Echuca, Victoria

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is the national memorial. It stands elevated on the slopes of Mount Ainslie and lies in ceremonial alignment with the old and new Commonwealth Parliament Buildings across Lake Burley Griffin.

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra, viewed looking up Anzac Parade, and the view from the Memorial to the Parliament buildings.

On a sunny Sunday morning walking up Anzac Parade the temperature is 30°C, the air is dry, clear and fragrant with the smell of eucalyptus, Holy Communion is being taken nearby in the Anglican church of St. John the Baptist, and all is peaceful and quiet. Anzac Parade is lined with memorials that capture the eye and the camera.

The Mounted Memorial shows Australian and New Zealand Army horse riders in action. The horse of the New Zealander on the right has been injured or shot, and the rider is falling to the ground; the rider on the left is supporting his mate. The original memorial stood in Port Said, Egypt, but was badly damaged in 1956 during the Suez Crisis. This is a replica unveiled in 1968.

The original memorial bore this inscription: ‘Erected by their comrades and the governments of Australia and New Zealand in memory of the members of the Australian Light Horse, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, The Imperial Camel Corps and the Australian Flying Corps who lost their lives in Egypt, Palestine and Syria 1916 – 1919’

The Mounted Memorial on Anzac Parade, Canberra

The Australian War Memorial is a place of remembrance, a museum and an archive. It contains the Tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier. The heart of the commemorative area is the Hall of Memory, a tall domed chapel with a small floor plan in the form of an octagon. In front of the Hall of Memory is a narrow courtyard with a memorial pool surrounding an eternal flame and flanked by sidewalks and shrubbery, including plantings of rosemary for remembrance.

The Hall of Memory, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Above the courtyard to either side are long cloisters containing the Roll of Honour, a series of bronze plaques naming the 102,185 Australian servicemen and women killed in conflict or on peacekeeping operations. The plaques include names dating back to the British Sudanese Expedition, the Second Boer War, and the Boxer Rebellion. The entire long wall of the west gallery is covered with the names of the 66,000 who died in World War I. The east gallery is covered with the names of those who died in World War II and conflicts since.

A section of the West Gallery with the names, but not the ranks of the 66,000 Australians who were killed during World War One. Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Plans to honour an unknown Australian soldier were first put forward in the 1920s, but it was not until 1993 that one was at last brought home. To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the body of an unknown Australian soldier was recovered from Adelaide Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneaux in France and transported to Australia. After lying in state in King’s Hall in Old Parliament House, the Unknown Australian Soldier was interred in the Hall of Memory on 11 November 1993. He was buried in a Tasmanian blackwood coffin, on which were placed a bayonet and a sprig of wattle. Soil from the Pozières battlefield in France was scattered in his tomb.

Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier
Australian War Memorial (www.awm.gov.au/visit/hall-of-memory/tomb/)

Among the many displays in the museum are the paintings of George Lambert. Lambert served as an official war artist in Sinai-Palestine and was a member of the Australian Historical Mission that went back to Gallipoli in 1919. During this period he recorded, in hundreds of small oil and watercolour studies, the landscapes in which Australians fought and the details of their everyday lives.

A Sergeant of the Australian Light Horse by George Lambert. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

He later undertook larger commissions, one of the most famous of which is ‘The Charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba’, which captures some of the drama and chaos of the 4th Light Horse Brigade’s thunderous charge on the Turkish trenches south of Beersheba on the late afternoon of 31 October 1917.

Detail from The Charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba 1917 by George Lambert
Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Onward to Sydney, by train through rural Victoria and New South Wales. On an overcast and humid Australia Day (26 January – the date on which the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788), the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park did not look at its best. The reflecting pool struggled in its greyness to reflect the pink marble cladding of the Art Deco memorial.

The ANZAC Memorial, Sydney

…and with better lighting conditions and a far more competent photographer:

ANZAC Memorial, Sydney

The interior is largely faced in white marble, and features a domed ceiling adorned with 120,000 gold stars – one for each of New South Wales’ military volunteers during World War I.

However, the centrepiece of the interior is the monumental bronze sculpture of a deceased youth, representing a soldier, held aloft by a caryatid comprising three female figures, representing his mother, sister and wife. There are two allusions which strike one when first seeing the figure: the Spartan mother’s farewell injunction to her son to uphold Spartan values of bravery as he went to war, “[Return] either with it [your shield] or on it”. A hoplite could not escape the field of battle unless he tossed away the heavy and cumbersome shield. Therefore losing one’s shield implied desertion and cowardice. The youth in the ANZAC Memorial returned dead, carried on his shield, and hence, brave. His arms are extended along a sword in the manner of Christ crucified, and one is reminded of the three women who tended Christ after his decent from the Cross.

‘Sacrifice’ by George Rayner Hoff, the centrepiece of the ANZAC Memorial, Sydney
With thanks to: sydneyemeraldcity.blogspot.co.uk/ – my photograph is terrible!

‘This is the central motif of the Memorial’s design. … Thousands of women, although not directly engaged in war activities, lost all that was dear them – sons they had borne and reared, husbands, fathers of their children, friends, lovers. … There was no acknowledgement of them in casualty lists of wounded, maimed and killed. They endured all men’s sacrifice quietly. In this spirit I have shown them, carrying their load, the sacrifice of their menfolk. … Sacrifice is a shift away from the rhetoric of honour, glory and manly deeds manifested in earlier memorials – Hoff had seen too much of war to glorify it. From the AWM website.

Four white marble panels inside the memorial appear almost as regimental standards bearing Australian battle honours for the First World War, including the largely forgotten (in Britain) battle of the Cocos Islands, the Royal Australian Navy’s first victory at sea on 9 November 1914.

A visit to some of the war memorials of Australia (and New Zealand) remind us that 1914-1918 was indeed a World war.

Detail of the war memorial at Oamaru, South Island, New Zealand, visited in 2004
nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/oamaru-war-memorial

Unless a URL is quoted, the photographs are those of the writer and may be freely used for non-commercial purposes, with an acknowledgement to the Norfolk in World War One blog: https://norfolkinworldwar1.org/ (the images have been reduced in size/quality for publication on the Internet and higher resolution ones can be shared on request.

A Walk in the cemetery part one.

Earlier in the spring, when the weather was decidedly changeable my husband and I went for a walk in our local cemetery, we were primarily looking for the drifts of snowdrops but then we came across one of the two Commonwealth War Graves plots within the Earlham Cemetery here in Norwich.

Two graves in particular caught my eye and I have spent a little bit of time investigating the two men commemorated on them:

This headstone reads:

7717 Private

J.Reford

Royal Inniskilling Fus

21st August 1914 Age 30

The first thing that caught my eye was that he died just 17 days after war was declared. We then had to find out if he was wounded in France very early on and returned to the UK where he then died. I pretty much instantly dismissed this thought as I didn’t think that an injured soldier would have been transferred to Norwich with wounds this early in the war.

Thanks to the Long Long Trail website I have discovered that Private Reford served with the 2nd Btn of the Fusiliers, who at the out break of were stationed in Dover but that sometime that month they were moved to Norfolk. They weren’t here for long however as they landed at Le Havre on the 22nd of August, the day after Pte. Reford’s death.

I wanted to know more and so using the National Archives site I discovered that the War Diaries for the Btn were available online for the dates I was interested in so I paid to download them. While they are a totally compelling and fascinating read sadly they are prefaced with a handwritten note:

WO 95/1505/2

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrghhh – the diary starts on the 25th August, the rest of the month isn’t there as it was assumed it had already been sent in!

The Regimental Museum for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers does offer a tracing service (temporarily offline) and I will be contacting them and also using some of the resources they suggest to see if I can find out any more about the death of Pte. Reford.

However, as ever, if anyone else has already researched this man and his death and would like to share them with us we’d be very grateful.

 

Helping a family with information 100 years after the event.

Another blog reader has contacted us and once more we’d love some help in fleshing out his story for family members as the 100th Anniversary of his death approaches.

The young man in question is Private Samuel Riches, we know he was registered as No 43491 within the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, although his original documents show that he originally enlisted with the 6th Cyclist Bn in October 1914.

More family research has shown that Samuel was a cook within the service

Samuel Riches (on the right)

and that his date of death is recorded as 11th August 2017.

Samuel is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres and sadly his exact place of death is not known.

It is with this fact that the family are asking for help.  We know that at the time of Samuel’s death the Third Battle of Ypres was taking place but the two questions the family have are:

  • As a cook would Samuel have been fighting in the front line and thus killed in battle or would he have been killed accidentally behind the lines?
  • Can we work out the likely location of his death from the date?

We really hope that some of our readers may be able to help with these questions so that when Samuel Riches descendants travel to Ypres in August they can have as much information about his last days as possible.

If any of our readers can help answer any of these questions, or can give any insight into the life of a cook in the Trenches during WW1 please do leave a comment or email Norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com.

Equally if you have a similar question within your own research please do get in contact.

 

Notes from the author

Author Edward Glover has recently been in contact with the NorfolkinWW1 blog team to tell us about his newest book A Motif of Seasons not only does this have a WW1 setting is has an intriguing dedication:dedicated-to-the-memory

Here Edward tells us why he dedicated his book to this one man.

A Motif of Seasons

There were two reasons why I decided to dedicate my book – A Motif of Seasons – to Private Charles Alfred Lawrence of the 9th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.

First, I decided from the beginning that my story (spread over three books) of the tempestuous relationship between two families – one English in Norfolk and one German near Berlin linked by an unexpected marriage in 1766 – should end in the tragedy of the World War 1. In Britain and in Germany no family was spared the bitter consequences of such a terrible conflict.

Second, the Royal British Legion campaigned in 2014 for every British soldier killed in the Great War to be personally commemorated. My wife and I wished to participate, not least because the war memorials in Norfolk villages like mine are ever present reminders of the losses these small communities endured.

Whether by design or accident, we received a certificate bearing Private Lawrence’s name and recording that he fell (at the age of 21) on the 15th of September 1916 in the Battle of the Somme. With no known grave his name is carved on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. I thought it duly fitting that the last book in my trilogy should be dedicated to him, serving to all who read the book as a poignant reminder of the sacrifice that young men like him made.

Arising from this dedication, it has been an honour and a privilege to establish contact with the present-day Lawrence family who were deeply touched that I should remember their ancestor in this way and who have shared with me some personal information about him. Moreover, last summer I travelled to France to see where he fell and his name on the Thiepval Memorial.

Author Edward Glover

Author Edward Glover

Copies of A Motif of Seasons will be available to borrow from the library very soon and we hope to plan a talk with Edward before too long in 2017.

edward-glover-cover

 

Exploring the Salient part 2

With many thanks to blog reader and artist Rebecca Hearle for this, the first of two posts, about her trip to the Salient and the art it inspired her to create. 

Salient

Before my visit to Flanders I had hoped to read the signs of the war on the landscape; to still see fields marked with trench lines, redoubts and bomb craters.  I also expected Flanders to be a similarly flat and open landscape like my home landscape of the Fens.  However, Ieper’s landscape is more picture-book like; rolling hills and small farmsteads reminiscent of childhood toy farms.  Apparently, before modern farming techniques it was quite possible to see the trace of the trenches on the landscape but now, with deeper ploughing, the landscape itself is forgetting.

Paul Nash, The Menin Road, 1918-19 oil on canvas Imperial War Museum(c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Paul Nash, The Menin Road, 1918-19 oil on canvas Imperial War Museum(c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

My original idea had been to superimpose period photographs of the Great War landscape, using the process of photo-lithography onto my own linocut images of the present day landscapes.  However, this didn’t fit with what I had found, the landscape just didn’t marry up to the old images anymore and nor would that approach communicate what I experienced.

I returned home with no idea of what to make.  I felt that I could not just make linocuts of the landscape as it now hid the War so well; it would just be fields or woods, conventional landscapes that could be anywhere.  I definitely could not make images of the landscape how it had been during and after the fighting.  That had been done by War artists such as C R W Nevinson, Paul Nash, John Nash and Otto Dix, artists who had experienced first-hand those great and terrible battlefields.  I felt I do not have the right to make those kinds of images and that nobody alive today does.

Otto Dix Bei Langemarck (Februar 1918), 1924 etching and drypoint MoMA

Otto Dix Bei Langemarck (Februar 1918), 1924 etching and drypoint MoMA

There are few physical remains now, but what is there is a landscape of words.  To cycle The Salient is to encounter name upon name; Flemish names; Ieper, French names; Ypres, German names; Ypern and English names; Wipers.  Names of CWGC War graves; Woods Cemetery, The Bluff Cemetery, Hedge Row Trench Cemetery, finger-post after finger-post and of course in those cemeteries and on those memorials the names of the dead, so many names.

What I decided to do was to map the journey, every road and pathway cycled or walked in and around Ieper during our stay.  I carefully traced our journeys using the modern-day map of Ieper that had guided our visit.  This tracing was then divided up and enlarged to make eleven separate sheets.  The images were reversed and transferred on to blocks of lino and cut away; I printed each different block in varying tones of grey.

Work in progress

Work in progress

These lino prints were then overprinted, using photo-lithographic plates which had been etched with hand-drawn texts of place names, place markers, cemeteries and quotes, with which I’m trying to communicate the written and over written nature of the place.

I scoured many different sources for the texts.  An assortment of maps were used; the tourist’s maps we had used whilst cycling, a modern facsimile of the Ypres Area trench maps as used by the British, and even a German map that the author Edmund Blunden took as a souvenir from a pillbox near St. Julien that now is archived with his papers at the University of Texas.

Edmund Blunden’s souvenir World War I map: St. Julien, Belgium, July 31, 1917 n.d. [image online] Available at: http://blog.hrc.utexas.edu/2010/08/17/edmund-blundens-souvenir-world-war-i-map-st-julien-belgium-july-31-1917/ [Accessed 13 November 2013].

Edmund Blunden’s souvenir World War I map: St. Julien, Belgium, July 31, 1917 n.d. [image online] Available at: http://blog.hrc.utexas.edu/2010/08/17/edmund-blundens-souvenir-world-war-i-map-st-julien-belgium-july-31-1917/ [Accessed 13 November 2013].

The typographic style for the text, though it was hand drawn, was inspired by a the Michelin book Ypres and the Battles of Ypres which is a tour guide produced in 1919 as part of their Illustrated Michelin Guides to the Battle-Fields (1914-1918) series.

I read WWI poetry, prose and memoirs including the invaluable Undertones of War (Edmund Blunden was stationed near Ypres), the moving  All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernst Jünger’s brutal memoir Storm of Steel.

On one map I indicate the place of the Yorkshire Trench, a preserved trench that we visited on our second day with a quote from Eric Maria Remarque’s All Quite on the Western Front; “The dugout shakes, and the night is all roars and flashes.  We look at each other in the moments of light, and shake our heads, our faces pale and our lips pressed tight.”  In this way, by using a quote from German source to illustrate the experience in a British trench, I wanted to show the equality of experience; that, regardless of nationality, to sit in a dugout during a bombardment was terrifying.

The maps were displayed in a group show with other MA Printmaking and MA Fine Art students from Anglia Ruskin in the temporary space at number 10 Green Street run by Changing Spaces Cambridge.  The use of the old shop window – it was formerly a music book retailer – allowed the maps to be strewn across the space as if shifted about by users.  To this display I added the pencils and compass I had with me on the journey around Flanders and my Michelin Guide to Ypres and The Battles of Ypres.

Salient maps installation view 1 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

Salient maps installation view 1 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

 

Salient maps installation view 2 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

Salient maps installation view 2 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

 

Salient maps installation view 3 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

Salient maps installation view 3 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

 

Salient maps installation view 4 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

Salient maps installation view 4 Changing Spaces, 10 Green Street Cambridge

Exploring the Salient part 1

With many thanks to blog reader and artist Rebecca Hearle for this, the first of two posts, about her trip to the Salient and the art it inspired her to create. 

Railway Wood and Tyne Cot

“And where do they find themselves, that autumn, separately but as part of the same beleaguered army?  In a flat, rain-swept, water-logged land.  A land not unlike their own native Fenland… A land where in 1917, there is still much digging, ditching and entrenching and a pressing problem of drainage, not to say problems of other kinds…. The wide world is drowning in mud.  Who will not know of the mud of Flanders?”   Waterland – Graham Swift

As an artist my subject is landscape, particularly that of the Fens where I live, which was brilliantly captured by Graham Swift in his novel Waterland.  I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Swift’s mention of Flanders as a landscape so similar to my own and yet the stage for the terrible events of WWI.  Whilst I was studying at Anglia Ruskin University I was lucky enough to win the Anglia Foundation Trust Scholarship which allowed me to travel to Ypres and then to produce a piece of work about the landscape.

On the 5th of June 2013 I travelled to Ieper with my husband Nick.  We stayed in a B&B on the outskirts of the town and hired bikes to explore the countryside on.  Cycling in Flanders is a joy; it’s the national pastime and all the roads have cycle paths and routes are clearly signposted; car drivers even give way to cyclists!

The first place I wanted to visit was Tyne Cot Cemetery.  After hiring our bikes we cycled off through the green park where the bicycle hire shop was and back up to the Menin Road.  We didn’t realise that we’d already missed our turning as the cycle route out of Ieper runs through a quiet residential area; instead we cycled along the main road almost to Hellfire Corner – now a round-a-bout – before we consulted the map and regained the right path.  I had been confidently cycling in front and over the next few days whenever I was leading we’d inevitably miss our turning. Without Nick’s map reading skills and innate sense of direction I would have been horribly lost many times.

After leaving the town up, what for us Fenland natives was, a steep hill we crossed the main road.  The cycle route then took to quiet, narrow country lanes.  We passed a couple of houses ensconced in a copse on the right.  At one a woman sat on her porch watching us pass and possibly wondering why I was cycling so slowly, unused to it as I was.  Then, ahead of us on the left, we saw a white cross topping a rise backed by another wood.  The soon to be familiar Commonwealth War Grave Commission sign finger pointed the way to the R. E. Grave Railway Wood. This sight, the white Cross of Sacrifice against the verdant green of Railway Wood was to become the hub of our cycle trips; we were to pass this point near to or from a distance each day.

Railway Wood from the track to Bellewaarde Farm

Railway Wood from the track to Bellewaarde Farm

Unplanned, we detoured up the grassy path to take visit the Cemetery.  The base of the Cross is engraved “Beneath this spot lies the bodies of an Officer three NCO’s and eight  men of or attached to the 177th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers who were killed in action underground during the defence of Ypres between November 1915 and August 1917” followed by the names of those twelve men.  Unusually they have no grave markers as their bodies were never retrieved and still lay where they died underground.

Railway Wood Cross of Sacrifice

Railway Wood Cross of Sacrifice

Adjacent to the Cemetery is a large pond, a crater from the War.  There are many more nearby, remnants of the terrible fighting that took place in what is now a peaceful and quite beautiful spot.  These craters and bomb pools are considered war memorials and it’s now illegal to fill them in.  Standing looking at these ponds, verdant with wildlife, you wonder who lies beneath in the benthic layer; they are strange oasis.

Crater near Bellewaarde Farm

Crater near Bellewaarde Farm

Further up the path from the R. E. Grave is a memorial to the Liverpool Scottish a regiment.  It states that they lost over 180 men as they advanced up the slope on 16th June 1915.  That slope is today a potato field, nondescript and commonplace.  I was overwhelmed by the seeming pointlessness of their deaths; they had died for this small field?

Bellewaarde Ridge

Bellewaarde Ridge

We cycled on to Zonnebeke; now a busy town with a cheerful looking school, it was wiped off the map in WWI.  Cycling along a former railway line we passed farmhouses that had been completely destroyed yet rebuilt almost exactly as before.  At the British named Thames Farm are the remains of a bunker Flandern I; just a corner still stands and a doorway.  A small wooden cross with poppy had been placed on the muddy floor.  This bunker had been built by Germans as a dressing station and used, as is the case with many structures, later by the British and Canadians.  For me the poppy was for all who died regardless of nationality.

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery

We approached Tyne Cot Cemetery late in the afternoon, hot and tired from the unaccustomed cycling.  Leaving our bikes we walked half way around the outside of the cemeteries’ grey flint walls to the entrance.  Tyne Cot lies on a slope looking towards Ieper and the cemetery, as you enter it, stretches out before you, colossal in size and gleaming white against the perfect summer blue sky; the remains of 11,960 lie within.  Ahead stands the Cross of Sacrifice which has been built up over a German pill-box; the original British named Tyne Cottage.  Behind the Cross arcs the Tyne Cot Memorial containing the names of almost 35,000 who died after 16th August 1917.

Within the cemetery, amongst the ranks of graves are two more pill-boxes, their rough concrete a contrast to the smooth Portland stone.  Strange to stand in a place so peaceful, with the sky so blue and cloudless, with the sound of Belgian children playing in gardens the other side of the cemetery wall, and be able to reach out and touch the past, a place I would never want to stand in 1917.

Tyne Cot Cross of Sacrifice

Tyne Cot Cross of Sacrifice

Between the Cross and the Stone of Remembrance, engraved Their Name Liveth Forever More, stand a few haphazard graves, the original burials from when the pill-box was used as an ADS.  Among those graves are two German burials.  Their gravestones differ slightly in shape and text but the men buried there, respected and honoured just the same, have more in common with their one time enemies than differences: they all surely “died in Hell”.

When visiting the cemeteries guide-book in hand it will tell you the notable graves to find, those who were exceptionally young (we never found one older than 34) or those who’d been decorated or are famous in some way.  To keep my rucksack light I left the guidebooks at the B&B so we found ourselves wandering among the markers reading here and there the names, rank and regiment of the deceased.  As I wasn’t looking for one single grave I started to feel compelled to read them all.  With so many lying unknown in their graves to read a row becomes a repetitive prose poem, a litany of the dead:

A Soldier of the Great War Known Unto God

A Soldier of the Great War Known Unto God

A Soldier of the Great War Known Unto God

 

Bastille Day Despatch from a Small Town in France

Bastille Day 2016 has been overshadowed by the terrible events in Nice, but before that story happened one of our blog readers celebrated in the town where he was holidaying and shared this with us:

 

Bastille Day Despatch from a Small Town in France

Bastille Day is a public holiday in France which commemorates the storming of the Bastille Prison in Paris on 14 July, 1789. This event is usually described as the start of the French Revolution and the beginning of the French Republic. Today, in Pauillac, a small town set among the vineyards of the Medoc north of Bordeaux, Bastille Day was marked in the town square before the memorial to the men of the town who died in the First World War.

The Pauillac Memorial to the Héros de la Grande Guerre, 1914-1918

The Pauillac Memorial to the Héros de la Grande Guerre, 1914-1918

On this day in 1916, while the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment were engaged on the Somme at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, our French allies were in the ‘mincing machine’ of the battlefield of Verdun. The Germans expected to break the French Army, but France’s Commander-in-Chief, General Joffre, was determined to hold Verdun at all costs. It was never captured, but by December 1916 it had cost 540,000 French casualties, many thousands of whom were killed. Wives and sweethearts sent postcards to loved ones at the front, but there was, naturally, some questioning of the cost of the war in human misery as the wounded returned home.

‘My heart is always close to You’

‘My heart is always close to You’

14 July, 1916 : A day in Paris : Outside City Hall, the Spoils of War

14 July, 1916 : A day in Paris : Outside City Hall, the Spoils of War

The Bastille Day review in Paris in 1916 was one of military parades in the face of continuing war. In Pauillac, in 2016, the review comprised men and women of the fire service and the municipal police. Two military standards were lowered in salute to the war memorial, and the Mayor, M. Florent Fatin, young and stylish, wearing the mayoral sash and carrying the dignity of the town, led the singing of Le Marseillaise.

Bastille Day, Paris, 1916 With thanks to markspostcards.wordpress.com/tag/bastille-day/

Bastille Day, Paris, 1916
With thanks to markspostcards.wordpress.com/tag/bastille-day/

Bastille Day, Pauillac, 2016

Bastille Day, Pauillac, 2016

Vive la France!