Visiting the past

I spent the latter part of last week headed to Albert in France, near where World War I’s Battle of the Somme began in 1916 on 1 July. We had the weather for it – it was cold and rainy the entire time we were there. It is an area of France with delightful cheeses and wonderful bakeries and eateries, but dedicated to the past, which is just unavoidable.

That event has the awful distinction of being one of the deadliest battles in human history, as one million were either killed or wounded by the time it ceased in November. It is almost insane to look at the small area of land they were fighting over – this is a war where the fronts moved yards, not miles, in months.

They are still finding and identifying the dead and ordinance today, nearly 110 years later. It is a sobering thought to realise that nothing in that landscape is now older than 108 years old – trees, buildings, roads, etc. The whole entire area was devoured by what can only be described as total destruction. The bomb removal squad in that area has a permanent job.

So as we look at the 80th anniversary of World War II’s D-Day on 6 June this week, it brings to mind that we seem to have not learned much about solving the problem of war. I can see why German authors such as Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front) and artists like Otto Dix (don’t look at his drawings before bedtime – nightmarish doesn’t even begin to cover it) were banned by the German authorities when they were gearing up for the second World War. They did not want the citizens to know what they were getting into.

I would very much recommend, while you’ve stopped at Thiepval, heading to the Ulster Tower nearby. They have a good cafe, which is staffed by members of the Somme Association based in Belfast, Northern Ireland Plus, they do guided tours of the nearby Thiepval Wood, where they have uncovered several trenches.

Another memorial is the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland one. The ground around the monument still has the deep indents of where the trenches were, which surround the caribou statue. Here are pathways through the trenches, where you can gaze across what was no man’s land, towards what were the German front lines. And be happy that friendly Canadian guides are available to answer questions.

Related content

Leave a reply

Dairy Industries International