Military History Tours Polygon Wood and Passchendaele Centenary Tour 29 September 2017
This morning we went back in time to 1916, when Australians were first employed on the Somme front.
We started at Ovliiers – La Boiselle where the front line of the British forces on 1 July 1916 is marked. There we discussed the tactics that would be used by both the German and Allied Armies in the coming offensive.
Then to the Lochinagar Crater, the largest mine crater in France, where at 0725 on 1 July 1916, five minutes before the German position thereover was attacked, the explosive charge was blown. The crater is now in private hands and being preserved by donations. We found many new displays had sprung-up over the past few months. All were of great interest.
A short drive up the road we came to Pozières where from 23 July to 3 September 1916 the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions had their first bitter taste of combat in France. At the 1 Div Memorial John L explained 1 Div’s action during the battle. At the Tank Memorial Windmill John talked about 2 Div at the Windmill and 4 Div at Moquet Farm. En route to Thiepval we stopped at the Moquet Farm Monument.
On to Thiepval and the British memorial where some of us were given a detailed description of the British action that made the site so significant. Again, we marvelled at a national memorial, not quite as impressive as the Canadian one, but with 70,000 names, a few more soldiers who have no marked grave to commemorate. Our boxed lunch was had on the visitors’ centre terrace.
Then Beaumont Hamel, the site that commemorates the Newfoundland contribution to World War 1. We were fortunate to secure the services of an erudite young Canadian guide who took us through in detail the action that destroyed 80% of the Newfoundland Battalion on 1 July 1916.
Our last activity was to take Paul and Sheldon to La Barque, where their great uncle was killed by an artillery shell and has no known grave.
Back a bit earlier tonight there was time for a well-earned drink before dinner.