Friends of Surrey Infantry Museum Tour to the Somme, May 2016

1051 Home for three days

Our land-vessel for three days.  The good ship Première docked safely outside the hotel in Arras.  She and Captain Dave served us proud.

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What did we get up to?  Well, far too much to tell you about here.  Or at least now.  Regular readers know I will reveal all in time.  So, to begin these selected snapshots from our trip, let’s start with our tour guide, Philip ‘I sense an outbreak of morale at the back of the bus’ Pearce, giving us an outline of the build up to the Battle of the Somme at the site of the windmill at Pozières, a little over a year after my last visit, only recently featured on this site.

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We visited the site of the famous charge made by Billie Nevill and the men of the 8th Bn. East Surreys, as they pursued footballs across No Man’s Land towards the village of Montauban (on the horizon) early in the morning of 1st July 1916…

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…and later Billie’s grave in nearby Carnoy Military Cemetery.

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Still at Carnoy, brilliant tour organiser Denise Hutchison, without whom none of this would have happened, in deep thought at the graves of two executed soldiers.

Thanks Dee.  Great job.

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We walked up the slope towards the infamous High Wood, which could perhaps have been taken, with better communications and quicker decisions, on 1st July, and which would finally fall to the British on 15th September.

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We explored further afield too.  Here’s Philip, looking suitably sombre at the grave of another executed man, Rifleman Harry Williams, at Roclincourt Military Cemetery north of Arras.

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Thought I’d forgotten about you, didn’t you, Ian?  Certainly not.  Our other tour guide, Ian Chatfield (third from right), expert on all things to do with the Surrey Regiments and invaluable provider of information all trip, speaks to the group at what I know is one of his favourite cemeteries on the Somme, the beautifully kept Flatiron Copse Cemetery…

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…where we also paid our respects at the grave of a Surrey VC, Corporal Edward Dwyer.

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I did find the opportunity to nip off on my own on occasions to find interesting stuff,…

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…and talking of interesting stuff,…

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…how about this eyepiece, glass intact, from a British gas mask, noticed by one of our party (nice spot Pauline – I certainly missed it!) in a trench within Thiepval Wood, and proudly presented to the camera here by Teddy, our guide in the wood that morning?

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You remember those old Victorian photos when everyone had to stay still for quite a while, but someone didn’t?  Well don’t look at this stitched-together panorama too closely, but these are the players.

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We visited Newfoundland Memorial Park, which enabled me to correct a particularly glaring omission, skillfully covered up at the time, from my last visit

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…and had some nice grub in some well-known places as we travelled the battlefield.

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A return visit, for me, to Ancre British Cemetery

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…and a very moving first, as we laid a wreath at the Thiepval Memorial.

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We visited museums (above & below)…

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…enjoyed the bright lights of Arras,…

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…note the Second World War bullet holes…

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…and visited the magnificent Arras Memorial to the Missing and associated cemetery,…

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…where we paid our respects to soldiers known, though missing,…

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…and unknown, though found…

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…before our final stop,…

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…the vast military cemetery at Étaples near the coast.

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Home sweet home.  I hope all who went on this trip enjoyed it as much as I did.  Or even half as much.  As regular readers know, I have made many trips to the battlefields of the Western Front over the last ten years, but this was my first organised tour, and it was an absolute privilege to be in the company of such a fine  group of colleagues, both male and female, many ex-military, all of whom welcomed and involved us civvies so kindly.  And a particular word of thanks to Tony, for not blowing us all to Kingdom Come when he had the opportunity to do so.

Thank you all.

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The known and the unknown.  Never forget.

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10 Responses to Friends of Surrey Infantry Museum Tour to the Somme, May 2016

  1. Sid from Down Under says:

    Another wonderful post MJS – and that gas mask eye piece ! Hope you enjoyed the photo of my father’s 1917-18 souvenired Hun gas mask eye pieces.

    I forensically trawled your post for a clue to what you are sending me – alas, I must await with excited anticipation

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Sid. There were, deliberately, no clues to find, that I promise you! I have emailed you, btw.

  2. Simon Nevill says:

    I have just read this and am amazed and delighted that so many people went to see my Great Uncle Billie’s grave. There are all the photos and poppies at his grave. I was away this weekend so would not have been able to attend. However I am planning on trying to negotiate the cordon around the area and visit on the 1st July. Does anyone know if there is anything happening at the cemetery that Friday? Simon Nevill

    • Magicfingers says:

      Simon, first of all, thank you so much for commenting here. Your Great Uncle was an important part of this trip (we laid a wreath), and I am so delighted that I posted this very brief (believe me, if you’ve looked elsewhere on my site, I take a lot of photos!) resumé of our trip and that you have stumbled across it so soon after the event. Welcome. We were at Billie’s grave only last Wednesday, having previously visited the battlefield at Montauban. I hope I’m not being cheeky here, but I, personally, have an interest in your Great Uncle, and I wonder whether you’d mind if I emailed you off-site. You might find what I have to say of interest.

      Good luck with the cordon-negotiating, btw. Rather you than me!

  3. Simon Nevill says:

    Please do. Simon

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Simon. I shall. I am also trying to find out whether there is anything planned at Carnoy on 1st July.

      • Magicfingers says:

        Simon, I have emailed you – just in case it ends up in your spam folder for some reason. You never know.

  4. Philip Pearce says:

    You can find out from the CWGC at Arras if there is anything at Carnoy on 1 July. It looks as if Carnoy is outside the control zone for the anniversary (see http://www.somme-battlefields.com/sites/www.prod/files/assets/files/zone_reglementee.pdf). If you approach from Maricourt, you should have no problem.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks for that Philip. And thanks for an excellent trip last week. An enjoyable and informative time was had by all, I think. Btw I have masses of information already, and a photo, of our Aussie from Dantzig Alley. I shall reveal all here at some time. You were there; you might like to keep an eye open. If you tick one of the two boxes beneath these comments you get notified of new posts.

  5. simon Nevill says:

    Thank you I have the email and also for the info on the control zone. I had found the same and had reached the conclusion that I can get to Carnoy cemetery as it is just right outside the zone. We will contact the CWGC at Arras to see what is planned.

    I will keep you all posted.

    Thanks

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