Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Advancedbiker goes to France - Day Three - Battlefield Tour

Lets set the scene......  I am no expert on this subject, so if I get anything wrong, please let me know.  I first became interested in World War One through my research into the family history, with my grandad Thomas Edwin Hill who served with the RGA.  He was one of the lucky ones as he went over to France at the start in 1914 and came back in 1920.   Here is my research I have done for my grandfather : Gunner Thomas Edwin Hill Royal Garrison Artillery  Now looking at some of his documents this one his will, means a little more to me.  Did he know something....It is dated 29th June 1916........
  

 The battle at the Somme started with a weeklong artillery bombardment of the German lines. 1,738,000 shells were fired at the Germans.  The Battle of the Somme started in July 1st 1916 and it lasted until November 1916 with the British soldiers advancing across a 25-mile front.   On the 1st July 1916 The British had suffered 19,240 dead, 35,493 wounded, 2,152 missing and 585 prisoners for a total loss of 57,470. This meant that in one day of fighting, 20% of the entire British fighting force had been killed, in addition to the complete loss of the Newfoundland Regiment as a fighting unit.  Many of the soldiers were told to walk towards the Germans as if was thought that the result of the artillery had desimated the enemy.  However about 500,000 shells were duds and 500,000 were the wrong sort as the Germans were 'dug in' and the shells designed to exploded above ground level had little or no effect.  So in other words the Britsih Army soldiers were walking into HELL and death as the German Army units were armed ready and waiting with machine guns......

By the end of the battle, in November 1916, the British had lost 420,000, the French lost nearly 200,000 men and the Germans 500,000. The Allied forces had advanced along a thirty-mile strip that was seven miles deep at its maximum.

Let us go forward 96 years to our battlefield tour, with the sunrise over the Somme:

Looking out from our bed and breakfast - Beaumont Hamil View towards Hawthorn Ridge and the location of Hawthorn Crater.

Hawthorn Crater was one of the 17 mines that were exploded by the British on the morning of 1 July 1916 to signal the start of the battle of The Somme.  It became famous as the explosion at 0720hrs was captured on film...

The mine took seven months to lay, being 75ft deep and 1,000ft long.  It was prepared with a 40,600lb ammonal charge by 252nd Tunnelling Company.  The resultant crater was 40ft deep and 300ft wide.




A bit different today as all you see is a tractor in the fields....
 Before we set off on our tour with David Platt our tour guide, he gave us a short demonstration....Well a look at a Rifle - Bayonet Drill......Then we were off in the LANDY...

All we did was as soon as we left the bed and breakfast,it was a right turn down at farm track, which was Old Beaumont Road and we were onto the battlefield.

 
One of the first stops was in Sunken lane at a spot where the black and white photograph was taken in 1916. These soldiers were about to go 'OVER THE TOP'.......

 Here we were shown some actual footage of the the explosion at Hawthorn Ridge before moving on.

Interesting to see that when you look at this particular area of the Somme how the lay of land changes, and you soon begin to realise the importance of commanding the higher ground.

Then went a bit click happy and did some photgraphy and here is just a small selection I did  during the 25 mile tour, which criss crossed the British and German Lines.
I have put more pictures on my Flickr page at: Beaumont Hamil View Battlefield Tour
Top of the Sunken lane


51st Division Flag Pole
Beaumont Hamil Church - Restored




Ulster Tower




Lochnagar Crater





Ammo still on the Somme


Y Ravine

At the bottom of Hawthorn Crater



On top of old observation point



Our tour guide David Platt at the end of the day

 They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.





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