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Sunday 23 April 2017 - The Somme

Today, was spent visiting the many battlefields and memorials of the Somme which saw some of the greatest carnage of the First World War. The Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, which bears the names of almost 11,000 Australians missing in France, and the Australian Memorial Park on the battlefield of Hamel, the scene of the great victory orchestrated by General John Monash in July 1918, were two of the sites visited.

After lunch the tour group visited the Thiepval Memorial where the names of 72,000 British soldiers missing from the Somme fighting are recorded.

Photos

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

Student views

The Somme

This morning was our first morning in the Holiday Inn hotel in Amiens, France. After a well-earned sleep and a nice breakfast, we departed for Villers-Bretonneux where we held many of our individual commemorations and one of our last group ones. Since we were there a couple days before ANZAC Day, we saw the large amount of effort that goes into the dawn service on ANZAC Day. Being able to see how much preparation and time that goes into this event, was very similar to the actions of the ANZACs during World War One. Chase and Leanne had the opportunity to be interviewed by Nick McCallum, a '7 News' reporter. They both talked about their soldiers and the significance that this tour has had on their lives and their outlook on WWI.

Once we had finished this very memorable experience, we left for a local Tea Room where we had a bag full of goodies for lunch. Upon arrival, we met Pete's wife and two children who were very well mannered and behaved. Once we were all well satisfied with lunch, we headed out to find a man who has been riding his push-bike around Europe, travelling to every World War One cemetery. At the conclusion of this man's very intriguing story, we left for a very well-known crater that was created during World War One, Lochnager. Being able to see this immense land feature gave us a better understanding of mine warfare and its effect on soldiers.

Our next location was the First Division Memorial in Pozieres, this was the place where multiple Gallipoli commemorations were held. This was quite fitting as the memorial was dedicated to all soldiers of the first division, that being, a large portion of the Gallipoli soldiers.

We then headed off to the Windmill Memorial, where we held Nicholas' commemoration. Being able to see roughly where his relative died meant so much to him, but most of all, upon entering the Windmill memorial there was a large cross located out on the field with many smaller crosses surrounding it. On this cross were the personal details of his relative, commemorating Ivor Margetts' death and his life. Additionally, we all ventured to the location which was within a 50 metre radius of Ivor Margetts' original resting place.

Our next visit was to the British Memorial to the Missing - Thiepval Memorial. This had the names of approximately 72,000 English soldiers declared missing in countless battles on the Western Front. This moving experience showed us that Australian soldiers weren't the only people dying in the Great War.

After a quick journey past Mouquet Farm, a piece of original land from the war, we headed to Pozieres cemetery. This cemetery is an open cemetery, meaning that present day soldiers can still be buried there. After hosting individual commemorations, Sean asked everyone to sit down around the grave of 19 year old Australian soldier and listen to the song "No Man's Land". This brought tears to the eyes of all, as it really set in stone the ramifications of war, and that each headstone, each name on every memorial was a living breathing person who had a family and friends who were destroyed but the tragedies of war. Red-faced and puffy-eyed, we held our final commemorative service as a group, Pozieres being the best location as it was one of the most defining points for the Australian soldiers in World War One.

Our evening ended with a group dinner at an American themed restaurant where the local population had started to gather to hear the results of the French election. A fantastic end to a great day.

By Chase Pontifex and Nicholas Margetts

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:

Villers-Bretonneux

Private John Norman Graham

Private John Norman Graham (Commemorated by Brooklyn Lade)

Born 1890. Enlisted January 1916. For almost 2 months, John was in hospital with trench foot. On 10 April 1917, John was killed in action whilst carrying a stretcher for a fallen soldier.

Lance Corporal Walter Treble Congram

Lance Corporal Walter Treble Congram (Commemorated by Charlotte Solomon)

Born in 1895 and enlisted in September 1915. His battalion entered the trenches in June 1916 and their first major battle was Pozieres. Walter's life was ended at the Battle of the Somme on 4th August 1916. He was 20 years old.

Private Leslie Thomas Prior

Private Leslie Thomas Prior (Commemorated by Marissa Ellis)

Born 1901 in Victoria and enlisted in February 1916. Leslie claimed to be 18 years and 3 months old on his enlistment papers. During the second battle of Bullecourt in May 1917, Leslie was killed in action at age 15.

Private Frederick Clive Collins

Private Frederick Clive Collins (Commemorated by Nicholas Margetts)

Enlisted in September 1915 aged 15 years. Frederick Clive Collins was killed in action on the 25 July 1916 at the age of 16 years and two months in Pozieres, Somme Sector, France. He has no known grave.

Major William Alexander Craies

Major William Alexander Craies (Commemorated by Chase Pontifex)

Born May 1886. Enlisted March 1915. William Alexander Craies died of wounds on 25 April 1918 at the age of 32. He had been mortally wounded by a bullet in the stomach, shot by an enemy sniper.

Corporal Ernest Malcolm Chambers

Corporal Ernest Malcolm Chambers (Commemorated by Leanne Ross)

Born 1892 Melbourne, Victoria. Enlisted 1914 aged 22. Although wounded, he survived his part in the second wave landing at Anzac Cove. Killed in action 14 June 1918, France. No known grave. Commemorated at Villers-Bretonneux.

Private William George Muir

Private William George Muir (Commemorated by Leanne Ross)

Born 1877 in Glasgow, Scotland. William attended Kilkivan State School near Gympie. Enlisted 1917 aged 40. Died of wounds 8 August 1918 and was laid to rest in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, France.

3rd Division Memorial, Bray-Corbie Road

Lieutenant Charles George Williams

Lieutenant Charles George Williams (Commemorated by Sean Maher)

Born 23 April 1897. Enlisted 30 July 1915, aged 18 years. Charlie's squadron, 3 Squadron, was part of the Australian Flying Corps. After the war, Charlie returned to Australia on 6 May 1919 and was discharged from the Army on 13 May 1919.

Pozieries British Cemetery

Private Charles Frank Church

Private Charles Frank Church (Commemorated by Bella Clarke)

Born 1900. Enlisted November 1915. He faked his age and listed his place of birth as Dorking, England. 18 August 1916 would be the last day of the 15-year old's life as he had been killed by a machine gun bullet before he made it to the German trenches they were raiding.

1st Division Memorial, Pozieries

Private John (Jack) Ellis

Private John (Jack) Ellis (Commemorated by Marissa Ellis)

Born in 1896, Brisbane. Enlisted August 1917 at age 21. Jack never went to school but taught himself how to read. During his battalion's involvement on the Western Front, Jack was gassed with mustard gas and as a result, returned to Australia in September 1919.

'Windmill' Memorial, Pozieres

Captain Ivor Stephen Margetts

Captain Ivor Stephen Margetts (Commemorated by Nicholas Margetts)

Born 4 September 1891. Enlisted September 1914 at 23 years of age. Ivor went on to be the only English or 'colonial' officer that remained at Gallipoli for the full eight months of the campaign. After being evacuated from Gallipoli, Ivor and the Australian Diggers were sent to the Somme, France. It was here that Ivor met his eventual demise from an exploding shell.

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This page was last reviewed on 23 Apr 2017

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