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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Back & Forth Tour 2019 - Day Five, Villers-Outreaux & The Hindenburg Line

Thursday was always going to be a little different. 

A friend had put me in touch with Bernard Delsert, an amateur historian living in the village of Villers-Outreaux who would "show us around the Hindenburg bunkers in the area".

Little did I realise that this fantastic Gentleman would plan an entire day of battlefield exploring for us, and then invite us into his home for refreshments when it was all over! What a guy.

My original plan looked like this (see below) and wasn't a million miles from Bernard's plan. He just took us to places near these spots that we would never have known existed.

Once again, I will let the photographs do the talking.

The 38th Welsh Division Memorial in Villers-Outreaux. Erected by the hard work of Bernard and his friends.

Bruce takes in one of the bridges crossing the St Quentin Canal near Villers-Ouitreaux

On the roof of a Hindenburg Observation Bunker. The metal plate would have originally mounted a periscope

Now combined into someone's garden wall, another bunker near by.

"The Knoll" near to Gillemont Farm on the Hindenburg Line. It was here on 31st August 1917 that my Maternal Grandfather was captured during a battalion sized trench raid on this position by the German forces opposite. He remained a POW until 11 November 1918. As you can imagine, this was a great moment to stand in his footprints.
The US Cemetery of the Somme at Bony - containing three Medal of Honor winners.
St. Quentin Canal, looking down on the Bellicourt Tunnel Exit. The steep bank to the right was once pock marked with MG positions cut through to fire on troops advancing on the canal
Excavated bunker defending the tunnel exit. You can still enter this but the gun slit is now below the level of the ground. Originally it had a field of fire 2000m+ across the barbed wire.
The mouth of the Bellicourt tunnel after its capture.
The Western Front Association memorial at Riqueval Bridge. This commemorates the capture of the bridge 100 years ago by a company of the 6th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, and a detachment of Royal Engineers on 29 September 1918.

The Bridge today

The bridge as it was then. Brigadier General J V Campbell addressing troops of the 137th Brigade (46th Division) from the Riqueval Bridge over the St Quentin Canal. 2 Oct 1918. IWM Q 9534 
46th Division Memorial

Another Hindenburg Bunker built into a narrow guage railway embankment near Villers-Outreaux

Prospect Hill Cemetery on the Beaurevoir Line . The crest behind the cemetery was littered with bunkers but we couldn't access them as the crops were too dense.

The team with Bernard (right) and the St Quentin Canal crossing point in the background.

 A memorable day that few of us will forget in a hurry. Thank-you Bernard.

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