Today has turned out to be the coldest day of the trip so far (10 degrees), along with a few rain showers. However our luck is still holding, with very little in the way of bad weather, with the locals saying that it should be -5 and snow! Even the bulbs in the ground are confused with the Daffodils shooting and flower heads forming.
We continued our tour of the Western Front with a visit to Villers Bretonneux. The town is the site of a very important action by the AIF (Australian Imperial Forces) in WW1. On the 25th of April 1918 the troops moved in under the cover of darkness to wrest control of the town from German hands. This was not the first time that the men had fought here. They succeeded in their efforts and the people of Villers Bretonneux were very grateful for the effort and sacrifice by men from ½ a world away. Their town was so badly damaged that a public appeal was made in Victoria for money to rebuild their school. In recognition of these acts, the people of Villers Bretonneux named streets in the town after Australian Cities (e.g. Rue Melbourne) built a museum to Australian action in France, gave land for a memorial and placed reminders in their school.
The plaque on the front of the school building
The sign in the school yard to remind the children of the friendship between them and us.
After viewing the museum and watching the children play soccer at lunchtime, we made our way to the Australian National Memorial just on the outskirts of the town. This land is Australian soil, given to the nation by the grateful locals and generally the people of France. It is a long piece of land with many graves (British and Australian) and a high tower to look out over the fields in which many a young Australian boy lost his life.
The tower and graveyard.
Next, we drove to the site of a very important battle. The Battle of Le Hamel was conceived, planned and executed by the Australian General John Monash. He was not a professional soldier so he was not regarded highly by the British. However he brought his Civil Engineers ability to plan and design this very difficult battle. He was to take a high point in the line, a heavily defended position that had resisted attack for some time. Monash knew that the dawn sun would make his men “sitting ducks” so he planned the attack for 3 am. He knew that a massive continuous artillery barrage only alerted the Germans to the site of the next attack, so he did not have one. He organised a “creeping” barrage where his troops would closely follow the line of bursting shells so when the barrage moved on then his men could advance before the Germans had positioned the machine guns. He knew that lack of ammunition and water was a problem when dealing with a counter attack, so he had the Royal Australian Flying Corp drop these things to the troops at dawn. The attack was planned to take 90 min. It took 93!
Monash was knighted for his efforts. The Le Hamel Corps Memorial is on the site of this major victory. There are also some of the remnant German trenches still visible.
William on the lip of the trench.
The final location we visited tended to underwhelm many of the travellers. It was nothing but an empty ploughed field. However this bit of Somme “dirt” has an exciting history (well at least to me!) 94 years ago on April 21 this was the place where many Australians were resting. Overhead a “dog fight” was in progress. One of the British Machines dived away with a German hot on his heels. They flew very low over the Australian positions, which was a big mistake for the German. The Aussies “opened up” with everything they had, and the aeroplane was hit. It landed in this field. The pilot of this red Fokker Triplane was none other than Rittmeister the Baron Manfred Von Richtofen. (The red Baron)
Our night time stop is Amiens. A beautiful town south of the old battle fields. We have a very nice Hotel with a view of the Cathedral.
A nice little Gargoyle
Carvings at the entrance to the Cathedral. One seems to have lost his head!
The interior of this impressive piece of Architecture!
By Jim Scritchley
It has been interesting visiting the region of Picardie again, for many reasons, but the fact that some of my ancestors lived here has made it all the more special. By the way, I must confess that Haighs chocolates are far superior to Belgium chocolates! Personal preference of course! Tania Vial
Dieter here. Today we visited some Anzac memorials and museums then we went to our hotel where we are staying the night, in Amien. And because it was only early I went for a walk with other people and got some cool Nike shoes that were on sale, cool. Bye
This is Mingi in Amien. Today we saw a lot of brave soldiers’ memorial who fought for their country. We have just finished our dinner at a hotel: chicken with rice, and it was very delicious. I’ve heard that in Adelaide there has been a lot of rain. We have been so lucky here because we have hardly seen rain. Europe is very different to Adelaide and Korea. My favourite city so far has been London because there were so many different things to see.