The Search Begins – Day 2 continues

After a delicious home-made lunch, we explored the Thiepval Memorial Centre before making our way up to the rather imposing monument. Thiepval was a joint project between the British and French governments, built in the 1930s, to commemorate the 74,000 young men who died in the various battles of the Somme between July and November 1916. In the shade near the Thiepval monument, Heather led a lively discussion about how different countries remember the Somme.

To contrast the British-French memorial for the Somme, we visited the Australian site at Pozieres. The Australian Imperial Force suffered 23,000 casualties in the area around the Windmill Site, about 6,700 dead. Instead of a towering monument, the Aussies opted for a bronze plaque with a bench in front of the ruins of the windmill that stood on the ground they fought so fiercely to capture and defend, with a concrete block walking trail leading to it.

From the high ground at the Windmill Site, we could see the Regina Trench Cemetery not too far in the distance. We figured it was time to visit a Canadian cemetery.

The Regina Trench Cemetery contains about 500 graves as a result of the back and forth fighting that took place. I had my first really emotional moment of the trip when I found the marker for Philias Carriere, a young man from Cornwall (my hometown) who served with the Royal Canadian Regiment. I planted a Canadian flag for him.

From the cemetery we tried to walk to where the German communication trench would have been but we’re foiled by a field. Desire trench was also nearby so we walked back up the hill to follow a different road only to run in to another field. While we didn’t make it to either of the trenches, we did make some explosive discoveries along the way, including half of a grenade and a shell. Both artifacts stayed behind, but there are a number of shell fragments and shrapnel that will be traveling to Canada with us.

Our last stop was the Carnoy Military Cemetery where we found CSG J.P. Alp, McKenna’s great uncle.

More to come soon (including pictures)!

Katie Beaudette

P.S. the bird decided it didn’t want to be our roommate, pooped on my bed, and left.

Hitchcock at Chavasse Farm

After a long but well deserved night of sleep at Chavasse Farm, the smell of fresh bread and warm tea was all we needed to get us up and early this morning, Our first stop was the Hawthorn Crater: the wonders of technology allowed us to see the mine explosion itself on Geoff’s phone and a few seconds later we were IN the crater. On the way and back I desperately hunted for pieces of shrapnel but alas only found pieces of glass bottles of wine or beer and a few cigarette buts: looks like some people are still celebrating the end of the war … in the crater. I did find something I wasn’t expecting: a smooth stone which may very well be a former commonwealth tombstone that has since been replaced, Deanna dug for the rest of it on her hands and knees as Katie took pictures… she has a tendency to do that: 3 days in and already 1500 pictures! We made it to Beaumont-Hamel and it felt like being at home: having worked there last winter I was incredibly happy to see some former coworkers, we exchanged hugs and tears and within a flash I was brought back to my time as a guide there, giving the tour to the other students and leaders of the CBF trip. I was happy to share the story of the Newfoundland Regiment and it was certainly an emotional experience for me. We said our goodbyes to our fellow Canadians and were on our way to Thiepval!

It was nice to get to the farm and get things ready for our communal BBQ in the evening, everyone pitched in for a nice, hearty meal and we enjoyed good conversations with glasses of inexpensive and delicious wine. What sounds like a casual Monday evening became a little bit more exciting once Madisson went up to her room, screamed and ran back downstairs claiming a bird had decided it wanted to become the fourth roommate! Stay tuned to see how this story develops

Jessica Ozorak