Military History Tours On Tour - Fromelles New Cemetery Dedication Tour 17 July 2010
This was quite a big day with the visits and the cemeteries that we visited.
We left Amiens at 09:00 as the group wanted to visit the Cathedral before moving north to Ieper. Due to our later start and the lunch boxes not being delivered to our hotel, we therefore headed north minus lunch.
Our first stop was to Bullecourt where we visited the Bronzed Slouch hat at the church and then out to the Digger Memorial where I took them through the battle and the terrible casualties that the Australians had suffered. Jean Leitaille was expecting us so we then drove back into Bullecourt to visit his museum. He was very pleased to see the young people who had come so far to visit him. He showed us the plans for the upgrade of the museum and he seems very happy with the work to be done by the Australian and French Governments.
Jean had put out in the yard his WW2 jeep and our young members of the group enjoy sitting in the jeep and chatting amongst themselves. Time was moving on and we had to leave. Jean was not happy that we had to go and would have liked the young people to remain a little longer. We left Jean and his 2 cats and made our way to Queant British Cemetery where we had a small service at a grave marked "An Australian Soldier of the 26th Battalion".
This was a token grave hoping that it may be the unknown resting place of one of our group's uncles who is on the wall at Villers-Bretonneux. Heading north we dropped in to Arras to replace the lunch we didn't have.
After lunch we headed to Messines for a presentation of that successful battle and conducted a similar ceremony in the Messines Ridge British Cemetery as we had done at Queant. Hill 60 and Polygon Wood followed and we were fortunate to meet Yohan Vandervollen, associated with finding the Zonnabeke 5, and he explained to our group the details of that wonderful find.
We finally reached our accommodation at 18:30, and then moved into our respective hotel for the night before we went to dinner. After dinner most ventured out into Ieper for a reconnaissance as there will be some shopping tomorrow.
For our other two coaches it was an eventful day and at one stage it did not seen as though they would be able to depart their hotel as the district around their hotel in Paris was troubled by blackouts. Finally with only one lift working they were able to extract all of their travellers and headed towards Bullecourt. Once at Bullecourt the two coaches were able to visit the Belmont Christian College coach that was already in place. Ron Lyons moved the coaches to a special vantage point where he could see the whole battlefield but when he climbed up what he thought was a pile of rocks was in fact a pile of manure. He lucky they let him back on the coach. All sinuses are now clear.
Following that incident, the visits to Pozieres and the Windmill site seemed tame visits. All were settled into Assevillers before moving to Peronne for free time in the town , a welcome at the museum by Dominique Frere and then dinner in the Historical itself.
Colonel Graham Fleeton.