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THE NORMANDY & WESTERN FRONT SERIES, DAY 9&10

ROUEN – VILLERS-BRETONNEUX – PERONNE – LONGUEVAL – LOCHNAGAR CRATER – ALBERT – THIEPVAL – BEAUMONT-HAMEL – ARRAS

The battle of the Somme. After setting off from Rouen we arrived at the Australian National Memorial and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just a cemetery. The tour here is entirely self-guided and is one of the most unique I’ve seen.

FOR THOSE WHO WERE NOT HERE, NO MATTER WHERE YOUR IMAGINATION TAKES YOU, YOU CANNOT COME CLOSE TO WHAT IT WAS LIKE

At the beginning you connect to their WiFi – has to be the first cemetery I know that has WiFi but for good reason – then you download their app.

WHERE IS SOMME?

Somme

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL MEMORIAL

The app uses location services and gives you a map of the grave site showing various sites of interest and your position. Walking into these geo fences allows you to listen to the stories of those you are buried here. It’s a great way to be interactive and gets people off the usual path. It wasn’t until I could find the rents that I realised there was a museum in at the back, I noticed a fair amount of people weren’t aware of this and left after checking out the cemetery.

The memorial was built to remember those who died in World War 1 so has been around for a number of years. So long infact that it was used in world war 2 as a look out and still has some war scars, namely bullet holes and during a recent restoration they decided to keep some as a reminder.

The battle of the Somme

DAY 9 DAILY INFO….

  • HOTEL – Un Parfum du Champagne 7.5/10 huge rooms!
  • RESTAURANT – Le Bistrot 6.5/10 Chicken, rice and noodles. Like the old days of body building
  • ATTRACTIONS –

Australian National Memorial 9/10
Museum of the Great War 5/10
Delville Wood Cemetery 7.5/10
Lochnagar Crater 8/10
The Somme Museum 8.5/10

DAY 10 DAILY INFO….

  • HOTEL – Le Dome, Arras 7/10 air heating system
  • RESTAURANT – Le Mamounia 7/10, Chicken Tagine, skewers
  • ATTRACTIONS –

The Somme Museum 8.5/10
Thiepval Memorial & Museum 8/10
Ulster Memorial 7.5/10
Beaumont-Hamel, Newfoundland Park 8/10

THE MUSEUM

The museum isn’t huge but one of the best for sure. Still using the app you will get options depending on which screens you are in front of, the app knows your precise location. And a quick tap will play the corresponding screen with audio through your earphones. Some of these screens are also interactive in the form of touch, such as showcasing weapons and vehicles that were used.

DAILY TRAVEL STATS….

  • Steps – 14,300 & 14,000
  • Miles covered – 513.7 miles

MUSEUM OF THE GREAT WAR

Heading to Peronne, we stopped off at the Chateux which sites the museum of the Great War, World War 1. This wasn’t for me, it was bland and lacked a real sense of story telling. The majority of it was more akin to an archaeological museum, not my thing! However the best part had to be the polystyrene tank outside which had us all completely fooled!

The battle of the Somme

DELVILLE WOOD CEMETERY

Delville Wood is a memorial, cemetery and museum for the fallen soldiers of South Africa who fought across the globe during WW1. Nicknamed Devil Wood, the South Africa Brigade came under heavy fire from the Germans where several thousand died or were wounded.

We didn’t get a chance to visit the museum as it was closed, possibly the case every Tuesday. A shame to miss out but the trip had been going to plan so far so can’t argue

LOCHNAGAR CRATER

We didn’t expect much from Lochnagar, after all it’s literally just a hole in the ground. I did consider not visiting it however when I noticed the buses here, I knew there was an experience here to be had! The stories and quotes dotted around the perimeter were incredibly moving and worth taking your time in reading them all.

  SOMME FACTS:
  • The first day of the Battle of the Somme was the bloodiest in the British Army’s history.
  • The Battle lasted more than four months.
  • Casualties totalled 1 million, including a death toll of more than 300,000.
  • The battle included the first use of tanks in warfare.

THE SOMME MUSEUM

Getting to the Somme Museum pretty late we only had 45mins to kill and for any other museum this size that’s more than enough. However, this museum was another classic.

The museum is held within an old tunnel dating back to who knows when, yes no one actually knows. Everything is on display from weapons, supplies, stories and many trench models depicting; medical section, winter, gun emplacements etc. And the best part was saved for tomorrow when we return. But that wasn’t before mum had a panic attack and needed to be out well before closing just incase we got locked in… 🤣

The battle of the Somme

DAY 10

Getting back to the Somme Museum we took the next half hour to see what we missed then walked through an immersive trench experience. Tbh it was tame but mum was still sh*tting herself, it doesn’t take much bless her!

ITS NOT OFTEN YOU SEE YOUR SCHOOL AND YOUR DAD’S SCHOOL EMBLEM SITTING SIDE BY SIDE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY.

You’d be surprised what a few sandbags, some sound effects and strobe lighting can do.

THIEPVAL MEMORIAL & MUSEUM

Thiepval is the memorial for the 72,000 service men missing from the Battle of the Somme. Each name is engraved into one of the 16 columns of this huge structure. Unfortunately we couldn’t get up to it due to remedial works but I couldn’t get over the size! There is also a small cemetery to the rear with the Cross of Sacrifice.

ULSTER MEMORIAL

We couldn’t visit this part of France and not take a trip to the Ulster Memorial (my home province), the first memorial to be built on the western front. Built as a memorial to the 36th (Ulster) Division who conquered the heavily fortified Schwaben Redoubt, the tower is a replica of a well-known Ulster landmark, Helen’s Tower.

BEAUMONY-HAMEL, NEWFOUNDLAND PARK

Another closed museum on a mid-week was a shame but from the research I believe this is one to miss regardless. The site however was jaw dropping. Trenches from the Somme remain untouched from over 100 years ago, including a stretch permitted for visitors to walk through, a bizarre feeling!

This was also the first place we could see the two front lines and gave us the first real sense of how close the two sides were and how exposed those who ran the gauntlet were. I hear the phrase “lambs to the slaughter” a lot when speaking about WW1, and now I know why…

SUMMED UP….

  • HIGHLIGHT – Australian National Memorial, followed closely by the Somme Museum &Lochnagar Crater.
  • LOWLIGHT – Newfoundland and Delville Wood museums were closed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Going through The Somme was probably one of the most moving days of the trip, from seeing the very ground the battles took place on, the craters from the explosions that took thousands of lives, learning how needlessly 20,000 men died within the first few hours due to a miss calculation and then reading what some soldiers had to say. I could have sat at any of these memorials and just thought how life was for them and how thankful I am.

NEXT UP

Going underground at Carrière Wellington Quarries and The incredible evacuation of Dunkirk!! Click to read.

SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
152/229

This post is part of The Normandy & Western Front Series, for the entire series click here or for episode 1, click here.
To watch the video of my trip, head to my highlights on my Instagram.

Question Time

  • Did you know 20,000 people died in just a few hours at The Somme?
  • Do you prefer to travel during peak or off peak?
  • What is your favourite country in Euroope?

Let me know in the comments below . . .

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