Thiepval Memorial is certainly impressive, both for what it commemorates and also it’s sheer size, it is visible from many miles away on all parts of the Somme. It is very difficult for me to accurately convey just how vast the whole of the battlefield is and how many tragedies unfolded in so many different parts of what is, today, a very beautiful landscape.
Just a couple of kilometres east from the village of Thiepval is the infamous site of Mouquet Farm. As the battle at Thiepval ground to a bloody stalemate, the British Command decided to gain control of the ridge beyond the village in order to create a gap in the German lines. By capturing Mouquet Farm, the British hoped that it would destabilise the German position at Thiepval and lead to its swift capture. On 5th August 1916, three Divisions of The Australian ANZAC Corps who had only recently lost 17,000 men in nearby Poziers, began the assault. A month later, after 6000 more casualties, they were relieved by Canadian forces and twenty five days later the farm fell to the British. The fighting had been hard and bitter, the slopes leading up to the farm a killing ground raked by machine gun and artillery fire. Today it is very different, but the rebuilt farm remains and so does it’s name In the annals of Australian Army history. >
Riding on to our accommodation in Gueudecourt we stopped at London Cemetery, adjacent to High Wood near Longueval.
High Wood was fiercely fought over during the Battle of the Somme until cleared by 47th (London) Division on 15 September 1916. It was lost during the German advance of April 1918, but retaken the following August.
The original London Cemetery at High Wood was begun when 47 men of the 47th Division were buried in a large shell hole in September 1916. Other burials were added later and at the Armistice the cemetery contained 101 graves. The cemetery was then greatly enlarged when remains were brought in from the surrounding battlefields, but the original battlefield cemetery is preserved intact within the larger cemetery.
The cemetery, one of five in the immediate vicinity of Longueval which together contain more than 15,000 graves, is the third largest cemetery on the Somme with 3,873 First World War burials, 3,114 of them unidentified. >
We found that the Cemetery has a most peaceful feeling surrounding the place. Skylarks could be heard singing high above us as we silently paid our respects, indeed the beautiful song of these small birds seems to have filled the air each time we have visited one of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries. I will be honest, tears were shed as we walked amongst the gravestones, each one a lost son, father, husband or brother and so many unknown.
“The larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below.” John McCrae, died from wounds 1918.