Today's Honour Roll

December
19
Today's Honour Roll recognizes 218 Australians who fell on this day in history.
See Full List
Name Date of Death Conflict
MARKS-CHAPMAN, Peter Robert 19 Dec 1969 Vietnam War
REILLY, Gavan John 19 Dec 1942 World War 2
JOYCE, Gerald Henry 19 Dec 1918 World War 1
EMERY, Percy Alexander 19 Dec 1918 World War 1
SCRUSE, James Edward Lenard 19 Dec 1942 World War 2

Edition Speciale - The Western Front to Normandy Tour - September 2017

Edition Speciale Battlefield Tour 2017

Visitors to these pages may recall a promotion earlier in the year for a Battlefield Tour hosted and guided by the VWM's Colonel Steve Larkins.

Le Hamel

The Tour took place as planned in mid-late September 2017, spanning 11 days and 11 nights Paris to Paris.  It was ajudged by all participants as a wonderful experience.  So much so that tour partner Battlefield History Tours Pty Ltd has scheduled another for 2018, again to be led and guided by Steve Larkins.

The itinerary covered all of the key AIF sites from WW1 as well as a number of Canadian, British, French and German sites.  In addition we located a total of 15 sites particular to Tour Group members. 

The Tour culminated in Normandy, arguably the most significant WW2 site in Western Europe.  Australian-based tours rarely encompass Normandy but as we say,  if you're going all that way, you ought to make the most of it!  Tour Group partipants agreed to the extent that the next trip in September 2018 will provide for three days in Normandy

We plan to provide in these pages over coming weeks, a taste of what our small group of 13 plus two (driver and guide) saw and experienced.  Keep your eyes peeled, and enjoy.  

 "Getting There" 

After welcome drinks the night before, our intrepid group set out from our Paris Hotel with Driver Philippe at the helm, into a bracing cool morning with rain threatening.

Compeigne


First stop the melancholy Forest of Compiegne where the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, and then 22 years later, the surrender of France to yet another invading German Army.

Then we headed for Amiens where our original intent was thwarted by deteriorating weather.

One of a series of evocative murals in the city centre of Amiens, in the Cathedral precinct

After an inspection of the Cathedral, which is larger than Notre Dame in Paris,  and a look around a very damp and subdued canal precinct, we headed for Arras to collect the last member of our party coming in by TGV from London via Lille.  

Lunch in the magnificent main square or Le Grand Place ensured we were fed and watered for the afternoon's activities. Next stop, the Wellington Quarries, 30 metres below the surface where the British concealed 25,000 men in a labyrinth of tunnels. Constructed by Kiwi Tunnellers ahead of the Arras Offensive in early 1917, specificaly to get troops out of observation by the enemy.  Just as well we were underground and under cover,  as the heavens opened in a torrential downpour.  The wet weather plan functioned perfectly(?!)

Wellington Quarries

Wellington Quarries - 30m down - 'The Underground War'.  At least it wasn't raining down there!

With light deteriorating we then headed for home for the next four nights, the beautiful provincial town of Peronne with our hotel just a short walk from the imposing L'Historial Museum.  Peronne is situated on a prominent bend in the Somme River, with the heights of Mont St Quentin behind it.  A perfect base for the next couple of days.

 Peronne

Peronne - pretty as a picture

 The Somme 1916

After breakfast and collection of our "le Picnic dejeuner" (lunches) we began the official program with a visit to a key site of the "First Day of the Somme" on 1 July 1916 - the massive mine crater, 'Lochnagar' at La Boiselle  In 1916, despite successful detonation under the German front line, and the incapacitatin of defenders in the immediate vicinity, the mine did not save the attacking British soldiers of the Tyneside Irish 'Pals' from fearful casualties inflicted by entrenched German machine guns near La Boiselle itself.

Lochnagar Crater - La Boiselle

We then drove to the other extremity of the British front line to Beaumont Hamel and the magnificent Newfoundland Memorial Park.  As with a number of their sites, the Canadian Government has preserved the battlefield as it was at war's end, and Canadian students on four month assignment act as guides.  On 1 July 1916, the 1,000 men of the Newfoundland Battalion were decimated here in a torrent of machine gun and artillery fire, and the Park commemorates the men of Newfoundland (then a separate Dominion to Canada) who gave their lives in the Great War.  A must-see.

Y Ravine

Crossing No Man's Land from Y Ravine Cemetery at the Newfoundland Memorial Park, Beaumont Hamel

We then progressed to the centre of the British front, and the principal objective of 1 July 1916, Thiepval, with its imposing Edward Lutyens-designed British Memorial to the Missing of France.  It was to take until September before the British finally captured this feature after cataclysmic losses.

Our intrepid travellers at Thiepval 

All of this provided context for what followed;  the arrival of the Australians on 23 July at the village of Pozieres, on the southern flank of the Front. 

What struck most people is how close these key features are to one another  - Pozieres and Thiepval are in clear line of sight as is Beaumont Hamel from Thiepval.  The other stark realisation is the fearful toll that was taken in such a realtively small area. 

Steve then explained the Australian section of the Front and the fight through Pozieres to Mouquet Farm, visiting the 1 Div Memorial, Gibraltar Blockhouse, the Windmill and a lesser-known site, Courcellette Cemetery, where many men of the 2nd Division, which finally captured the Windmill on 4th August 1916, are buried.

From Pozieres we headed back to Peronne via Contalmaison through which many Australians passed on ther way to (and from) the line.  Longueval and Delville Wood have particular significance for the Kiwis and South Africans.  We also passed through Guedecourt and Flers where the Australians were to spend the winter of 1916 - the coldest in living memory.

 

On arrival in Peronne we walked around to the L'Historial Musee de la Grand Guerre.  We were met by Dominique Frere who took us on a personal, very entertaining and informative tour of this most impressive museum.   The Museum now features a dedicated Australian room in the walls of the fortress, with an outstanding audio visual explanation of the Battle of Mont St Quentin, as a result of which Peronne was liberated on 2 September 1918.

Engine Room

 Guide Steve and driver Philippe - our motto - "en avant marche!"  - and we did!

If you are interested in being part of a unique Battlefield Experience, another Western Front to Normandy Tour will be conducted 13-25 September 2018.  Monitor these pages for further information, coming soon.

 

Steve Larkins  Dec 2017