Amiens. The River Somme flows peacefully through the city on its way to the sea.
And over there’s the cathedral. Honest!
Amiens Cathedral, or, if you prefer, la Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, towers above one of the many small canals and waterways that wind their way through the city.
Amiens itself, the capital of Picardy, was very briefly occupied by the Germans in 1914, before becoming, for the rest of the war, a vital rail and road communications hub for British operations on the Somme front. Its position, some way behind the lines for the much of the war, encouraged the population to remain in situ and the city became a bustling recreation centre for soldiers of all nationalities on leave from the front.
Although the occasional German bomber had risked the trip across British-held territory to release its bomb load over the city, it was not until 1918 that Amiens suffered more serious damage, over two thousand houses falling victim to German artillery as the tide of war drew ever nearer. The cathedral, built of sterner stuff, was hit, but suffered little damage.
The Family Baldrick.
And inside, equally so. This is the view that thousands upon thousands of visiting Allied soldiers would have encountered as they entered the cathedral.
During the Second World War (and perhaps the First too?) sandbags were piled around the pillars inside the church, and you can still see the height to which they were stacked.
A number of information boards adorn some of the pillars, all of which I have very kindly photographed for you.
What happened to Rheims Cathedral thankfully did not occur here.
If anyone can explain…? Update: Chris has – if you’re interested, see the comments section at the end of the post.
Memorial tablet to the men of the 6th Regiment, United States Engineers, who died defending Amiens in March 1918.
Memorial tablet to Raymond Asquith, son of British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. Three months after his son’s death, he would be replaced at Number Ten by Lloyd George.
Memorial tablet to French colonial troops who died on the Somme.
Tablet to the memory of General Marie-Eugène Debeney, commander of the French 1st Army at the Battle of Amiens in the summer of 1918 when the German advance was halted and finally turned, and the man given the honour to officially receive the German Ambassador as the Armistice went into effect on 11th November.
War Memorial and Rolls of Honour to the men of the Parish of Notre-Dame who died for France during the Great War.
Much older stuff (above & below).
The little Chapelle Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur,…
…with its wonderful stained glass windows,…
…plays host to the flags of nations linked to Amiens through war.
The tablets (close-ups below) explain.
The famous Weeping Angel.
More tablets (see below for close-ups).
Tablet to the memory of the 600,000 men of the armies of Great Britain & Ireland who died on the Western Front in the Great War.
Tablet in memory of the men of the Royal Canadian Dragoons who gave their lives during the Great War.
Memorial tablets commemorating the men of the A.I.F. who died in the defence of Amiens between March and August 1918…
…and the men of the New Zealand Division who fell on the Somme in 1916, and in the defence of Amiens in 1918.
Tablet in memory of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, defender and liberator of the City of Amiens.
Note the sandbag lines one third of the way up the pillars.
Time, I think, to head for a bar,…
…a quiet drink on the banks of the Somme…
…turning into an evening of new friends…
…and quiet reflection.
Until later, much later,…
…the city finally sleeps.
Me, I’m making a return visit to France next Tuesday. Without Baldrick, who hates me. Based in Arras this time, I shall be following the Queen’s and East Surreys on their journey across the Somme one hundred years ago. And in due course I shall do my best to take you along too.