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Monday, 20 May 2019

Back & Forth Tour 2019 - Day Two, Somme (South)

Our next two days were to be spent re-acquainting ourselves with an old favourite, the Somme.

We split the battlefield into north and south areas and find that we can do one area per day.

Due to the Ulster Tower being closed on Mondays (Like most of the rest of France!!) we decided to do the southern area first. The intended plan was as per the map below.

Once more, I will let the pictures below tell the story.

Fricourt British Cemetery visible in the distance, containing many 10th West Yorks casualties from 1st July. Their attack (from left to right in the picture, behind Bruce) was over a short distance covered by German MGs. To help provide them cover from fire several small mines were detonated in the wooded area to the right - known as the Tambour (Drum).
Once inside the wooded area the mine craters can be located (there are in total six of them). Sadly they failed to provide the cover required and 10th West Yorks suffered more casualties than any other battalion on the first day.

To the rear of the mines the German trench line can still be made out, zig-zagging amongst the trees. I have a Linesman GPS system that allows us to see our location on the original trench maps which helps immensely with this.

After, we visited another scene of carnage - the Devonshire's trench at Mansel Copse.

The 38th Division memorial overlooking Mametz Wood

The South African Memorial in Delville Wood. This houses an excellent (free) museum that covers the South African armed forces from WW1 to Korea. Well worth visiting but shut on Mondays!!

Close to the museum is the only original tree surviving from the time of the battle.

Outside the command bunker in Martinpuich, a reminder of the iron harvest. British 18 pounder Shrapnel shell and German 77mm shell.

Alongside the rusty remains of a Stokes mortar bomb.

The German Command bunker at Martinpuich. Two chambers with the side facing us demonstrating damage caused by supporting tanks when the British finally captured the village.

On the main Albert-Bapaume road, at Pozieres is the tank memorial (why here I have no idea....surely it should be in Flers?) This Bronze Whippet model has bullet holes caused by German strafing in 1940.

Also in Pozieres, the Gibraltar Bunker captured by the Australians. Now excavated and fenced off so it can be better viewed. For many years it was hidden in a dense thicket.

Further down the road at the Pozieres CWGC cemetery there is the memorial wall for 1918 missing - these names are not covered on the Thiepval Memorial. Amongst them is Lt. Col. W. Elstob VC. Famous for his last stand at Manchester Hill on 21st March 1918 - which we will visit on Friday.

Finally to close the day, a visit to the magnificent Lochnagar Crater at la Boisselle. Never fails to make you think....
So that was Day two over with.....dinner and wine beckon.

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