Today's Honour Roll

January
24
Today's Honour Roll recognizes 98 Australians who fell on this day in history.
See Full List
Name Date of Death Conflict
HOGAN, Charles Ignatius Clarence 24 Jan 1917 World War 1
THOMSON, James 24 Jan 1916 World War 1
MOREY, Alan Wilson (MC) 24 Jan 1918 World War 1
GREEY, Douglas Bernard 24 Jan 1916 World War 1
MAHONY, Vincent Daniel 24 Jan 1946 World War 2

Western Front to Normandy Battlefield Tour - September 2017

Prt 2  - Western Front to Normandy 17

Prior to Christmas, we provided an insight into the Western Front to Normandy Battlefield Tour, conducted by VWM founder Colonel Steve Larkins in association with Battlefield History Tours Pty Ltd.

The same Tour, albeit with an additional day in Normandy, is to be conducted 13-25 September 2018.  For details email Steve on sandglarkins@outlook.com

Here is part 2 of the feature.

20 September 2017

Today's visits took in key 1918 sites beginning with the small town of Dernancourt just SW of Albert.

Dernancourt was the scene of fierce fighting in early April 1918 as the 4th and 5th Divisions held off the largest assault faced by Australian forces in the Great War.  The battlefield is relatively compact and defined by the amphitheatre-like ground on which the Australians were deployed, bounded by the railway embankment on the edge of the town.

The Dernancourt Communal Cemetery in which lies the grave of Lieutenant Colonel Alan Leane of the 28th Battalion, in a grave funded by the men of his Battalion.  Nearby is a simple marker for an English woman who died here in 1943.  An SOE operative perhaps?  More investigation required.

Dernancourt was a major staging point earlier in the war.  Dernancourt and South Australia's capital Adelaide developed a special bond, with a suburb named for the French town.  Dernancourt's reciprocal tribute is the Adelaide Pavillion.

     

The 3rd Division Memorial outside Saily le Sec, located at an otherwise innocuous minor road junction in farmland.  The signficance of the site was made apparent by the diaries of Peter Zillman's (back row left) father.

Next stop the 3rd Division Memorial near Saily le Sec. We benefited from the diaries and photographs of one of our tour members, Peter Zillman whose father served in the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion. He and his mates recalled the area here with some fondness having spent nearly 3 months here in the summer of 1918, in the lead up to the 8th August, perhaps at least in part explaining why the site was chosen after the war as the location of the Division's Memorial.  One of the photos revealed the commanding view of the Somme River valley from this location.

 

The view from atop the tower at the Australian National Memorial Villers Bretonneaux

With an adjustment to our schedule we headed for the National Memorial to the Missing in France at Villers Bretonneaux. The weather by this stage had delivered the magnificent view for which this location is well known. Repair work on the Wall of Remembrance and the construction work relating to the Monash Centre were in evidence so we chose to conduct a wreath laying on the Cross of Sacrifice, commemorating a total of four relatives of Tour Members Peter Neuhaus and Mark Fairleigh.

Our group inspects the site from which the Unknown Soldier was disinterred at Adelaide Cemetery, Villers Bretonneaux

We then visited the Adelaide Cemetery at Villers Bretonneaux where we chose to pause for lunch. This site overlooks the assembly area and start line for a part of the Australian frontage for the counter attack of 24/5 April 1918, and contains the graves of many of the dead from the battle. Perhaps the Unknown Soldier, taken to Australia from here in 1992, was one of the men who fell in this crucial battle?

The next stop was the School Museum which presents very differently to how many would recall it from years past. It has been very professionally curated under the oversight of the local Trust that is responsible for it.

The Australian Memorial at Le Hamel.  Visitor often ask why there is no New Zealand flag at this site.  Simply because at the time the battle was fought, each of the nations whose flags are flown were present on or adjacent to this action.  US troops were embedded with the Australians to gain experience, the Canadians and French were adjacent to the Australians and the operation was under overall British command.  The Kiwis at that stage were employed on another section of the Front. 

From VB we called in to Le Hamel to inspect the memorial which replaced the original opened in 1998, but which subsequently succumbed to the weather and was replaced in the early 2000s. The site provides an excellent view of the Battlefield, and across the Somme Valley to the 3rd Division Memorial at Sailly le Sec and nearby the site where Baron von Richtofen('the Red Baron'), was brought down by groundfire from Australian troops in April 1918.

Heath Cemetery and its two VC winners provided the site for an explanation of the August  ‘Hundred Days’ campaign initiated by the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, known to the Germans as 'der Schwarze Tag" or the Black Day of the German Army, after the term was coined by General Ludendorf.

Our program today concluded on the heights of Mont St Quentin overlooking the town of Peronne. The scope and scale of this incredible feat of arms was covered across three locations here and explained by guide Steve Larkins.

Dinner in  L'Historial

After a quick freshen up in our hotel in the centre of Peronne, Dominic Frere welcomed us for dinner at the L’Historial as a fitting finale to our day.

21 September

Today's visits were intended to capture the essence of the last few weeks of the First AIF's war up until they were withdrawn from the line on 5 October following the battle of Montbrehain

With tour group members in possession of family diaries were able to make a number of impromptu stops.

Tincourt where Carl Neuhaus (Peter's grandfather) had been billeted late in the war. The cemetery contains 225 Australian graves.

From there it was off to Epehy, where Susie Nicholls outlined the fact that her 'adopted grandfather' Solomon Jacobs, had been billeted in a field adjacent to the railway station with the 10th Battalion when news of the Armistice signing was delivered. Solomon was a despatch rider so his diary reflects a better than most level of situational awareness of events around him.

We located the railway station building at Epehy, and then after a bit of scrub bashing,  an abandoned double track railway and sidings, confirming we were in the right spot.

Next stop the Bony American cemetery, where US Forces aided by Australian advisers (six of whom were awarded the US Distinguished Service Cross, the highest award available to foreign national serving with US troops) captured the high ground over the Riqueval tunnel.

We were opportunistically and fortuitously hosted by the local head of the US Monuments Service who gave a very informative outline of the role that the Monuments Services plays and how it goes about its various tasks.

The US Monument near Bony

A quick call to the USA Monument and then to Bellicourt cemetery. Tour leader Steve Larkins pointed out a relative’s grave; that of George W H Bush KIA on 30 September with the 55th Battalion, and the grave of LtCol Vann VC, MC and Bar, a former priest who instead of becoming a chaplain enlisted in the Infantry and went on to distinguish himself in three occasions only to fall to a snipers bullet just days afterwards.

From there just a short hop to the Riqueval tunnel on the Cambrai - St Quentin Canal, which was part of the Hindenburg Line in 1918. 

We were very fortunate to arrive just as an electric chain tractor barge dragged itself along the centreline of the canal.  Introduced to eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide in the tunnel from petrol and diesel engines, the barge is powered by an overhead caternary system similar to an electric train.

It was here the 5th Division had captured the tunnel portal supported on their right by the British 46th Division which captured the vicinity of the Riqueval Bridge.

Then it was via Montbrehain, scene of the last AIF battle of the war,  to High Tree Cemetery, ALMOST the most eastern cemetery in which Australian soldiers are interred.  Where IS  the easternmost?  That's for next time.  The $64M question remains unanswered - Where is the Register box in this cemetery?

Big hands, small maps over lunch, near HIgh Tree Cemetery Montbrehain?

Our last stops for the day were the 4th Division Memorial at Bellinglise and then on our way back to Peronne via the German cemetery at Maissemy.  The Tuetonic bleakness of the basalt headstones and the fact that over 44,000 German soldiers were interred here was in stark contrast to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in such abundance on our travels.

An early after noon today to allow time for folks to take in the ambience of the lovely town of Peronne before dinner in our hotel and preparations for our move to Belgium tomorrow.

 

Steve Larkins

January 2018

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Adelaide National War Memorial (WW1)
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Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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Adelaide - RAAF WW II 1939-45 Memorials Complex *
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WILLS, Henry John
Sapper, 13th Field Company Engineers, AIF WW1
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Victor Harbor War Memorial*
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EGAN, William Andrew
Private, 42nd Infantry Battalion, AIF WW1
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Private, 34th Infantry Battalion, AIF WW1
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TAPLIN, Colin Quintrell
Lieutenant Colonel, Land Headquarters, Australian Military Forces (AMF) - WW2

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