Accompanied by a few photos of the flagpole and poppy memorial at the entrance to Randalls Park Crematorium in Leatherhead in Surrey, let’s take a look at the state of play of theBigNote as of April 2022.
My last trip to Flanders was in January 2020, not so many weeks before the pandemic hit; I make that twenty six months and counting.
Now, despite the many other aspects of the Great War that I spring on you from time to time, where would we be without our photographic tours of the burials sites and battlefields of the Western Front, alongside the stories behind both the cemeteries and the men buried within them? This, of course, necessitates rather large numbers of photographs, which is why there are well upwards of 30,000 so far on this website, and the laws of mathematics state that the more photos that are uploaded, the fewer remain to be uploaded. Can you see where I’m going here……?
Well actually, no need to panic, you can’t, and I’m not.
We shall shortly be embarking – shortly meaning when I’m ready – on another tour, somewhat shorter than the last Kemmel one, admittedly, after which we shall be heading south, with various stops along the way, towards the flatlands of French Flanders once again.
And while we spend some time down there, and assuming what I am about to tell you goes smoothly, I will, although they don’t yet know it, have encamped Chez Baldrick for as long as it takes to restock, or top-up, the photo library.
In the meantime, I shall, next month, be embarking, quite literally, on a slightly different adventure, on, at times, familiar ground.
During the third week of May 1940, despite the frankly ludicrous French plans to counter-attack the advancing Germans, the British Expeditionary Force, under the command of Lord Gort, made the only sensible decision available; retreat to the channel ports and get the hell off the continent of Europe as quickly as possible.
Among the troops heading for the coast were men of both the Queen’s and the East Surreys, and it is their journey from the River Escaut (Schelde), as seen in the map above – for your information Avelghem (now Avelgem) is about twenty five miles east, and a little south, of Ypres (Ieper) – to the channel coast that I shall be following,…
…as well as checking out the British attack on 21st May on Rommel’s panzers down at our old stamping ground of Arras, where the war memorial still shows the scars of battle (above, and shown in more detail here), although I would imagine these bullet holes are 1944 vintage.
Now, whether you are of the opinion that the fighting in 1940 belonged to an entirely different war, or whether you consider that it was nothing more than a continuation of the first one after a twenty year hiatus, the Great War Part Two if you will, to my mind the six week campaign in France & Belgium in May & June 1940 is closer to the open warfare of the latter months of 1918 (with the roles of pursuer and pursued reversed) than it is to anything that took place after D-Day in June 1944.
Thus I shall be relating the story of the Surrey regiments’ experiences in 1940 at some point in the future, and should I require any further justification for so doing, then may I refer you to the title of this website. ‘Nuff said.