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Tuesday 24 April 2018 - The Somme

Villers-Bretonneux, home to the rousing 'Never Forget Australia' sign that graces the entrance to the Victoria School was amongst the locations visited today. Stops at battlefields throughout the Somme included the astounding Lochnagar Mine Crater, which is over 100m in width. Walking with their historian through some of these battlefields gave a deep insight into the fighting that resulted in more Australian casualties than any other battle in our history.

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

Student views

The Somme

Today we started by heading out to Victoria school where we were able to visit the museum. Despite it being one of the smaller museums, it was still very informative and no one was overloaded with information. We were able to donate small gifts to the school despite the students being on holiday. We were reassured that they would receive their presents. We headed into the courtyard where we saw 'Do not forget Australia' written above the courtyard. We then made our way to the 3rd Divisional Memorial where Jodi and Tim gave eulogies to their respective relatives.

We arrived at Old Blighty Tea House for a pleasant lunch. After we headed to Thiepval, the British memorial to the missing. Visiting the memorial and accompanying museum was quite a moving experience. We then visited the Dernancourt, a little popularised battle in the WWI, before pushing on to pay our respect to the fallen Indigenous soldiers. Isaac then delivered a eulogy commemorating Richard McDonald, one of an estimated 1,100 Indigenous soldiers who fought in WWI. A ceremony commemorating the Indigenous soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force was held and was a very moving ceremony as it showed that Indigenous soldiers were able to serve and die for their country. We now await the climax of the trip, the 100th anniversary of the battle at Villers-Bretonneux.

By Harry Packwood and Isaac Mabo-Edwards

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:

3rd Division Memorial, Saily-Le-Sec

Lieutenant Norman Bunn
(Commemorated by Tim McMahon)

Norman Bunn was born in the area around Birmingham, UK, on the 3rd December 1892. At the age of 23, he enlisted at in Brisbane on the 28th January 1916. On the 6th May 1916, he embarked from Sydney. On the 3rd July 1918, whilst fighting near Hamel, Norman was awarded the Military Cross. Norman survived the final battles with his company and on the 16th November he was granted leave to Paris. Later, in World War II, Norman saw service, becoming Captain of the Voluntary Defence Corps in Maryborough.

Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension

Private Richard McDonald
(Commemorated by Isaac Mabo-Edwards)

Private Richard McDonald served in the 1st Australian Infantry Battalion. He is one of the more than 1000 Aboriginal soldiers who fought in World War I. Following the outbreak of WWI, Dick tried to enlist for service in 1914, only to be rejected due to his Aboriginality. On the 25th November, 1915, he volunteered to become part of the South Coast Waratahs recruiting march along with 50 other recruits. Dick, along with the Waratahs, departed for England on the 1st April, 1916.

Vaux-sur-Somme

Air Mechanic Thomas William Aylward
(Commemorated by Jodi Pallett)

Prior to enlisting in 1917, Thomas William Aylward spent 10 years in the Royal Australian Navy Reserves and was given permission to leave the Navy to join the Australian Imperial Force. In March 1918, he was taken by the Australian Flying Corps as a second class air mechanic. Thomas spent the next eight months training at the Royal Air Force School of Technical Training in Reading and at the 6th Training Squadron for the Australian Flying Corps. After the war, he remained in England for nearly six months and eventually returned to Australia in May 1919.

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