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