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Published: August 21st 2011
What a crazy and amazing couple of days. So. Lets start from where we left off, shall we?
Thursday, August 18
Today was another day of full history inside the training room. All morning we learned about the battle of the Somme (Where the Newfoundlanders fought at Beaumont-Hamel was part of this major battle) and also the battle of Arras (of which taking Vimy Ridge was a part of). This was soooo helpful because that's the bulk of what we're going to need to know for the job, the day before was mostly putting these battles into context.
THEN that night the guides that have been working here all summer had us over to their house for a party and pubcrawl. It was really great to meet everyone and to finally go out in Arras! It was also so cool to see the houses we’ll be living in!!!! I only saw the house on Vauban Street, but it is SICK (and I never say sick). The main floor has a kitchen, living room and dining room, and a garage with a washing machine. There is a basement that looks like a dungeon too. On the next
Lochnagar Crater Memorial
A giant mine was exploded here right underneath a German base, they had to tunnel underneath them to place the mine. This is the crater that was left
floor up there is a very large triple room with a complete bathroom and a toilet room. There is also a full wall of closets. The next floor has two single rooms and a double room, and a full washroom and bathroom. All the rooms are a really great size and the house is already furnished and super nice. We went out to three different bars and then set out on the grueling 45 minute walk back to the B&B…
Friday, August 19
Today was the start of our tour of the battlefields of the Battle of the Somme. For those of you who don’t know what happened, here’s a brief snippet:
After it being stalemate along the fronts for a while the triple entente (British and colonies, French, Russia) met up and decided to launch three major offensives in 1916, the Somme being one of them. It was a very large front line. It was supposed to be a joint English-French offensive, but the Triple Alliance (Germans, Austro-Hungarians, Italy) earlier in the year launched an offensive at Verdun against the French designed to essentially “bleed them dry” through the process of attrition. This meant that the Somme
British Monument with the names of all the soldiers whose bodies were never found
became a primarily British offensive. Most of the soldiers sent to the Somme were relatively unexperienced, so they adjusted the tactics accordingly. The British bombed the Germans for 5 days straight, and then the soldiers were told to walk across with full gear (70lbs) because they Germans should all be dead or retreated and there would be no danger. The opening day of the battle on 1 July 1916 saw the British Army suffer the worst one-day combat losses in its history, with nearly 60,000 casualties. What went wrong: The British didn’t realize how enforced the defenses were on the other side (the Germans were there to stay so they had amazing trenches and used the Y ravine, a natural huge ditch to protect themselves very well), no one had a map, they walked across full pack making them easy targets as well. Also, as you can gather from the story, their 5 day artillery barrage had very little effect on the Germans because they still didn’t understand all the factors affecting the artillery (like the effects of humidity, age of the canon, wind speed/direction, etc.) At Beaumont-Hamel specifically, the Hawthorne redoudt was blown up ten minutes early, so instead
of blowing up the mine and the British rushing in the confusion, the Germans essentially had a signal to man their guns and were waiting for them when they came ten minutes later. Also at Beaumont Hamel, after the first line went they heard there may have been some British success and saw a white flare get sent up by the Germans ( which for the Germans meant to attack or something, but to the British meant retreat) The British thought they were doing well, so they sent in the Newfoundland regiment. Approximately 780 men went forward, and only 68 could report for the roll call the next day. The battle of the Somme went on until November and continued to sustain major casualties.
We traveled to several spots along the front lines, as well as a few cemeteries and monuments dedicated to soldiers who fought in this battle. We visited Thiepval, which is essentially the British version of Vimy Ridge; it has the names of all the soldiers whose bodies were never recovered written on it. There was also a great interpretive centre there as well. We got to see the cemetery where a Canadian Victoria Cross winner is
Eating the lamb, rolls, delicious salads and cheesecake mmmm
Piper James Richardson is one of four members of the 16th Battalion C.E.F. to receive the award during the First World War and is one of three pipers who have ever received the Victoria Cross.
Richardson’s award was made for rallying his company, October 8, 1916, at Regina Trench, on the Somme, France. After Richardson's company went "over the top" they were held up by concentrations of barbed wire and subjected to intense enemy fire. Richardson played his pipes while walking outside the wire, thereby inspiring his company to successfully rush and capture the position. Later, the same day, Richardson assisted a wounded comrade and was escorting enemy prisoners when he realized he had left his pipes behind. In attempting to retrieve the pipes he was lost in action and is buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, France. Richardson was 20 years old and was the son of David and Mary Prosser Richardson of Chilliwack.
Later in the day we visited an old field with a graveyard in behind it. Then Jean, who was showing us around, showed us a photo. In the photo is a bunch of Canadian soldiers in a trench and in the background is a graveyard,
the same one we were standing right next to, so we were standing exactly where that trench used to be.
What I found the most special was visiting the remote cemeteries. We would drive and all of a sudden just stop in a cornfield and you turn around and there is a commonwealth cemetery! I feel like because those were so remote not many people probably visit them. They were left where there was an original graveyard, often next to a hospital during the war. It really was so special to be able to go see the graves that are often overlooked.
Later this night we attended a méchouis (lamb-roast!). After a meat deprived week living in the B&B we were allllll looking forward to a homecooked meal (or a meal that was just cooked in general). We got to hang out with all the bosses, and current guides and I met a lot of great people. It was SOOOOO good and we had a great time. The highlight of the night though is that the current guides each gave one of the new guides a pin in a ceremony. The Vimy Ridge guides gave them to the
Every cross represents 4 bodies, almost 50 000 are buried in this cemetary
new Vimy guides, and then the current Beaumont-Hamel guides got theirs. Both of them are different ; the Vimy pin has a picture of the monument, and the B-H pin has a caribou on it! It was really specially and it was like they were passing their passion and their enthusiasm on to us.
Saturday, August 20
Today we again toured the battlefields, this time the ones associated with the Battle of Arras, mostly concerning Vimy Ridge. We stopped at each of the spots that the four Canadian divisions would have been. We were able to see their objectives and understand better what they would have seen. We started the day though by visiting the German cemetery near the Vimy Ridge monument. Here they had almost 50 000 people buried. The French did not give the Germans very much land to bury their dead, so each cross represented four soldiers. As you can see they went on forever. I found this cemetery especially moving because it was so large and it was so sad. Each cemetery has a different feel; I found the commonwealth graves very peaceful, but the dark German crosses felt very somber.
Next we traveled to
Notre Dame de Lourette
The crosses continue on either side, the buidling is the chapel where the names of the soldiers whose bodies were never found are inscribed
Notre Dame de Lourette, a French cemetery. This one was also very hard to see. It was absolutely huge, I think over 40 000 people buried there. Each cross represent one soldier, except for those that were unknown. There were two 20 ft by 20 ft fenced in grass lots, with a sign that said there were over 4000 bodies buried in a mass grave in one of them and over 5000 in the other. It must be so hard for families who never knew what happened to their loved ones, and having no place to grieve for them. Especially to think that their bodies may just be piled underneath that soil it was just so sad. Then I went over to the chapel they had on site. Like the Canadians and British, the French listed all of the names of the men whose bodies were not found, but they were written inside on the walls of the church in gold. The chapel was so beautiful. It originally stood there and was destroyed in the war, so they rebuilt it for that purpose. I thought it was so special that their names were written in a church. I know not
Monument at Notre Dame de Lourette
At night they light the lantern at the top of the monument
everyone might appreciate it, but just having some place of comfort that the family can go, I just found it so much different and very special compared to Vimy and Thiepval. It’s also so interesting to see those three major monuments and how different they are from one another.
One of the last things we saw was where the unknown soldier that lies in the National War Memorial in Ottawa was originally buried. There is a gravestone in the cemetery that says where he was moved to and explains what happened. This was especially interesting for Maya who worked at the War Memorial all summer.
That night I had a glass of wine with a bunch of people in Kaitlyn and Gorana’s room, celebrating the end of our training week. We also got our schedules today, and I think Steph, Gorana and I might go to Bruges this Friday and Saturday!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Today we had a break from training! It was nice to sleep in, but it also happens to be the day of the large annual market in Arras! We all went over together around 11, but split up once we got there
because some people were hungry and others were not. Sam and I continued to shop around, and we found some great stuff! We met up with Louise (my supervisor) for Lunch and it was really nice to talk before starting work tomorrow.I had a relaxing and fun day just walking, talking, and shopping ☺ I think it will be early to bed for me tonight. Tomorrow is our only on the job training day, we’ll be shadowing the current guides on their last day, and then on Tuesday we’re thrown straight into the job! Kind of scary but also very exciting, and I can’t wait for tomorrow! I’ll be suiting up for the first time ( in my Parks Canada uniform that is) and I can’t wait!
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