Today has been our last full day of touring the battlefields and we packed it to the brim. Starting off, we went to Delville Wood where some of the worst fighting of the war took place. The South Africans were trying to take the woods from the Germans and there were huge casualties. The memorial and museum are dedicated to the South African soldiers. While it has the solemnity of the other cemeteries, the place is a relic of the old South Africa with hardly a mention of the black Africans who were a part of the conflict. The Sikh stretcher bearers are featured in one panel and the black Africans, who were part of the labour force, are on another. Black Africans weren’t allowed to enlist as combatants but they were in Europe doing a lot of the physical work on the fronts.
After Delville Woods, we got to visit Lochnagar Crater that was the result of an explosion on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Miners had buried deep under the German lines and placed enormous amount of explosives underneath. It is hard to capture the scale of the crater but the picture at http://www.lochnagarcrater.org/ gives you some idea.
Following Lochnager, we went up to Beaumont Hamel, the site of a battle between the Commonwealth forces and the German army who were defending a vital railway line. A huge number of the soldiers were from Newfoundland in Canada and the loss was a massive blow to the small community. Canadian students welcomed us to the site and we could clearly see how close the two sides were positioned across the field.
The caribou statue commemorating the sacrifice of the Newfoundlanders.
The statue for the Scottish Highlanders who later took Beaumont Hamel in another battle.
Next we went to Railway Cuttings to see the sites where the Accrington Pals and Barnsley Pals were decimated, leaving towns missing a generation of young men. We also went to Serre Road Cemetary Number One. There we each took time to place a poppy on a grave of one particular soldier. It was an opportunity to focus on one soldier in the face of thousands of graves.
Our last stop for the day was Thiepval, a huge monument to the missing on the Somme. Every side of every column is filled with name after name.
In the evening, we went into explore the healthy eating programme in Ypres. Here are the results of our findings – no photograph of the Belgium chocolate shop available.