Cross upon cross, headstone upon headstone, row upon row, so many etched with ‘Unknown Soldier’; monumental Memorials roll-calling the names of the thousands who can never be acknowledged with a cross or a headstone. Each site respectfully tended regardless of nationality interred, the Germans distinguished by grey crosses within a quiet field of their own. Like our own, they were just young men sent into the same bloody, senseless battles. Each one heartbreakingly young; seeing, experiencing and succumbing to horrors we can’t begin to imagine. But you probably know that anyway, a part of our ANZAC history…a raw, gut wrenching sacrifice of human life.
Starting from Amiens we visited the 1918 battlefields at Villers-Bretonneux and an imposing Memorial commemorating nearly 11,000 Australians who died in France but have no known grave.
From there to the village to visit the Franco-Australian Museum full of Australian photographs and memorabilia, then Pozières where so many Australians lost their lives over the summer months of 1916.
Followed this with a visit to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing – 72,000 British and South African men in this case. Also visited the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont-Hamel where we walked through the zigzag trenches still evident almost a century later. Oh my. We struggle to remain composed as our guide describes unimaginable scenes played out there.
Also visited a special spot where Jenny’s Great Uncle was interred and where she planted a small Australian flag and memorial. So nice to recognise and acknowledge at least one of the so very many who sacrificed their lives on the Somme battlefields.
Initially ambivalent about the trip, rewarded with a whole new appreciation for the courage and bravery acknowledged, appreciated and respected by this little part of our world.