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Saturday 22 April 2017 - Ypres to the Somme

Leaving Belgium today the group travelled south to the battlefields of the Somme. The battlefields of Messines and Bullecourt (where Australia lost 10,000 men in two great battles in 1917) were visited on their way to Amiens, the capital of Picardy and a town rich in art and history.

The afternoon was spent exploring Amiens including its famous gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage listed site.

Photos

Photos of the students' tour of Amiens have been added to the gallery.

Student views

Amiens and the Somme

Today we had a slightly earlier day and went to the local markets before our journey to Amiens. This was certainly an interesting cultural experience as the markets in Belgium are quite different to those in Australia. In fact, these markets were quite reminiscent of a medieval marketplace with stalls selling meat, cheese, seafood, bread and fruit and vegetables and many a local could be seen buying their fresh produce for the week.

On our way to Amiens, where we will be staying for three nights, we made many stops. Firstly at the Messines battlefield where we saw the Peace Tower built after the war. Then we drove by the Christmas Truce Memorial where soldiers from opposing sides emerged from their trenches one Christmas during the war and joined together in a casual game of football. Next was the beautiful Kandahar Farm Cemetery where Leanne commemorated Private James Bennett from her town of Emerald. We stopped again at Lijssenthoek Cemetery where Chase commemorated Henry Edward Hembrow and Hannah commemorated Waterman Alexander Brown, her great, great grandmother's brother. We then stopped on a small farm called Strazeele where Leanne's great uncle went missing in action, killed during the war. Here she gave an emotional eulogy to honour her fallen relative who has had a significant impact on the course of her life.

Afterwards we headed to Vimy Ridge where the National Canadian Memorial is located. The site also contains some preserved Canadian trenches and tunnels. It was very interesting to see this and again hear a non-Australian perspective of some of the war's most infamous battles.

Our final stop today was the Bullecourt Digger Memorial. We stood on what are now pristine green farming fields looking out onto the horizon at the landscape that was once the muddy, blood stained battlefield where thousands of Australians lost their lives in 1917. This experience was extremely moving, enabling us to really envisage the harsh reality of battle and trench warfare. We then listened to Marissa deliver her Eulogy on William John Welsh and together we held a group commemoration for the fallen of Bullecourt.

We arrived at our hotel in Amiens in the evening, settled into our rooms and enjoyed dinner as a group where we later watched the sun set on the cathedral and canals.

By Brooklyn Lade and Matisse Reed

Student and chaperone commemorations

Each member of the tour group researched three service personnel. This information has been captured in a State Library of Queensland Historypin.

Commemorations were held today for:

Kandahar Farm Cemetery

Private James Bennett

Private James Bennett (Commemorated by Leanne Ross)
Born in 1882 and enlisted in 1916. James Bennett died of his wounds on 22 June 1917, aged 35. James Bennett's parents, Edward and Mary Ann Elizabeth Bennett lost both of their sons in the First World War.

Bullecourt 'Digger' Memorial, Bullecourt

Private William John Welsh

Private William John Welsh (Commemorated by Marissa Ellis)
Born 1887 and enlisted at 30 years of age in September 1915. Welsh's battalion was involved in the defence of Gallipoli until December 1915 when they were evacuated and moved to France and the Western Front. William was captured by the Germans as a POW and returned home two years later.

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This page was last reviewed on 22 Apr 2017

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