After seeing six of eight Canadian World War I memorials, the 26th marked our last day of the First World War sites and a transition into the Second World War. However, there were still two major battle sites left: the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Amiens. The day started early due to the traveling that was involved. All members of the tour were checked out of the hotel and were ready to depart at 8:30 sharp.
The distance may have been short, but during the drive our tour group traveled almost a hundred years back in time to the Battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest battles of the war. We stopped at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. Just like all the Newfoundland memorials, it consists of a statue of a Caribou facing towards the enemy lines. During the course of their tragic attack at the Battle of the Somme, the Newfoundland Regiment sustained more than 90 percent casualties—310 men were killed in action within minutes of their advance. The battle site is well preserved with the trench pickets, barbed wire and big shell holes still visible. Once the tour paid tribute to the fallen with the last post and the lament, they were able to walk through the trenches and go to the Danger Tree, which was the furthest any Newfoundlander got during their attack—only 150 meters away. This battle site was especially daunting.
The Battle of the Somme is special to the British Columbia Regiment (BCR) because it was the first battle where tanks saw action. Fittingly, our next stop was the memorial dedicated to the first use of tanks in war. The memorial, which is located directly adjacent of the Australian memorial, was very interesting, and had four different miniature types of tanks in the corner.
The Courcelette Memorial was the second last Canadian memorial we visited and it is dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme. The stark inscription adorning the monument states simply, “The Canadian corps bore a valiant part in forcing back the Germans on these slopes during the battles of the Somme Sept 3rd – Nov 18th, 1916.” At this memorial Corporals Delaat and Lafferty shared letters which were written during the battle by soldiers of 29th and 102nd battalions.
Near Courcelette, the Adanac Cemetery is the resting place for many of the Canadian soldiers who perished in the Battle of the Somme. The tour paid tribute to the soldiers through the playing of the lament. This cemetery is also the resting place for Victoria Cross winner Piper James Richardson of the 16th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force, which is perpetuated by the Canadian Scottish Regiment. On October 8th, 1916, Piper Richardson and the 16th Battalion were in the Regina trenches. Due to barbed wire and heavy machine gun fire the battalion was held up. Piper Richardson jumped over the top and played the pipes which inspired the soldiers to advance. For his actions, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
At the next battle site, we jumped two years ahead to the 1918 Battle of Amiens, the start of the so-called last hundred days of the war. This battle is very significant in the history of our country because for the next 86 days out of 100, the Canadians were on the advance. After navigating through small, narrow off-roads, the tour arrived at Hangard Wood British Cemetery, located near the Canadian front line at the start of the battle. Because of the location, and the lack of visitors at the cemetery, the Regimental Sergeant Major performed the Act of Remembrance followed by the last post and lament.
The tour drove through the battlefield where the Canadian Corps advanced eight miles in the first day of the attack, finally arriving at the last Canadian Memorial from World War I. The tour had now visited all eight of the Canadian First World War memorials. At this site, before making the transition to World War Two battlefields, the old guard and the association took the time to introduce themselves. One by one, all members took the time to give a quick description of their service and their connection to the Regiment.
Now we were on our way to Caen, almost everyone on the bus except for our driver Peter had a good snooze. Afterwards, we arrived at our hotel. The group checked in, had dinner, and went to bed in preparation for another busy day!
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