Saturday, March 12, 2011

Battle of Somme

Our recent excursion to Normandy included a good amount of history.  We saw the Bayeux tapestry which tells the story of William the Conqueror becoming king of England, we visited sites along Omaha Beach and we drove through some of the contested territory of the Battle of Somme.

Canada maintains a site that includes the trenches of the French and English allies, no man's land and German trenches as well as several Commonwealth cemeteries.  The site is staffed by Canadian college students and visitors can receive free private tours.  We walked amongst the trenches, across no man's land and stopped at three cemeteries on the property.

Over the years parts of the trenches have caved in, so they are neither as wide nor as deep as they were when they were in use.  Visitors can still get a sense of how many there were, how they zig zag and how far they were from one another.

At this point along the front, no man's land was quite wide.  The allies had alot of territory to cover when they decided to go on the offensive against the Germans and there was no place in which to take cover.
On the site is a memorial to honor the Newfoundlanders who died in horrendously huge numbers.  At the time Newfoundland was not a part of Canada but was a separate dominion of England.

Also at this time was a practice of creating battalions and regiments of friends and neighbors.  This was great for inspiring loyalty and camaraderie amongst the troops.  The downside was that when that unit suffered mass casualties entire communities were devastated.  Our guide told us that it took the Newfoundland communities that sent troops decades to recover from the loss of their young men.

The caribou monument honors all the Newfoundland men who fought and died in the Battle of Somme. It sits on a man-made hill and is landscaped with plants native to Newfoundland.   The hope of those who created it was that this bit of home in the midst of a French battlefield would be a comfort to the men who lost their lives, their friends and their families.

No comments:

Post a Comment