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4th April - World War 1

Bullecourt Museum
Outside Bullecourt Museum

I kind of worked out why I prefer other countries to France. In other countries, especially the USA, it is all about customer service where as in France that doesn't seem to be the case. The customer has to fit in with what is provided.

This morning we left our little hotel room in Heily and headed into Amiens to have our usual Maccas breakfast and then go to the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens or more simply Amiens Cathedral. We arrived in the Maccas carpark around 9:30am to find that the store didn't open till 10:00am, unbelievable. So we went to the Cathederal first. Another masterpiece of Gothic sculpture, incredible both inside and out. They were setting up chairs for temorrow's service, a big day suspect.

Next we travelled to Bellenglise to continue our travels along the Australian Remembrance Trail. The Fourth Australian Division Memorial is out of the town and down a track which was wet amd muddy, the car now resembles something out of the Leyland Brothers! The memorial stands on the heights above Bellenglise on what was the Hindenburg Line.

Next was three memorials very close to each other, the First Australian Division Memorial in Pozières, the Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval and then the The Windmill in Pozières. The Windmill site marks a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth. Over seven weeks in 1916, at the Battle of the Somme, the Australian Imperial Force suffered 23,000 casualties, more than 6700 of whom died, in the countryside around the Windmill.

In Bullcourt the Jean and Denise Letaille Museum tells the story of the bloody battles fought by Australians at Bullecourt through a vast array of artefacts collected from the fields of Bullecourt. Great collection and tribute to the Australians.

We ended the day in Arras, tomorrow we should reach Belgium, hopefully it will be open!

3rd April - World War 1

Standing in the trenches - Le Hamel
Standing in the trenches

The reason we originally planned this trip to Europe was to visit the WWI sites significant to Australia. Over the next few days we will be driving to these sites.

This morning was cold and overcast and there was a light misty rain falling. Somehow it seemed appropriate and the wet and cold seemed a small price to pay.

We went first to The Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial which is a World War I memorial located near the commune of Villers–Bretonneux, in the Somme département of France. The memorial lists 10,773 names of soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force with no known grave who were killed between 1916, when Australian forces arrived in France and Belgium, and the end of the war. The memorial also serves as the Australian National Memorial to all the Australian dead during the Western Front of World War I.  Very interesting place, so many graves marked with soldier unknown. 

This was followed by a visit to the Victoria School where the Franco-Australian Museum is located. The museum tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the area and the ongoing relationship with the town through a collection of objects, letters and memorabilia. On a wall in the school playground area was a large sign saying ‘Never Forget Australia’.

Next was The Australian Corps Memorial Park which is situated on the brow of a hill east of Le Hamel village to the south of the River Somme. The memorial park commemorates over 100,000 Australians who served with the Australian Corps in France during the First World War. The Australian Corps was formed in 1917. It comprised five Australian Divisions, which saw service in Belgium and France from 1916-1918. The memorial is located on the site of the final objective of the Battle of Hamel on 4th July 1918. This was the first attack planned and carried out by General Sir John Monash, commander of the Australian Corps. The memorial is very informative and is very close to the site where the Red Baron was shot down.

Mont Saint-Quentin Australian War Memorial is located in Mont Saint-Quentin region of Picardy, on the road from Bapaume to Péronne. It is dedicated to the Australian Second Division of which Rayls’s grandfather James Kinsella was a part.  It is strangely located on a house size block of land with houses on either side. I am sure on a warmer day as people browse the memorial the people will be outside playing and doing what people do around here.

We lastly visited the Museum of the Great War near the heart of the World War I Somme battlefields. It is housed within the Château de Péronne, a castle in the town of Péronne.  

We ended the active part of the day with a very pleasant walk around the main part of the town of Péronne.

Now I sit in the car in the car park our little hotel, the internet is not so good so I need to be closer to the main part of the hotel and it is too cold and wet to sit outside. Dusk is setting and Rayls and Ryan are watching Le A Team on TV. Mr T dubbed into French – weird. Plenty of photos taken but the internet is just not good enough to upload them.

2nd April - Monet

Today we travelled from our overnight stop to the village of Heilly just outside of Amiens. This is WWI area and where many Australians fought.

Earlier we visited Claude Monet's House and Garden in the town of Giverny. Given how early it is in the season the gardens are nowhere near as colourful as they will become in the northern summer but still worth a visit. The house was fascinating and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours here.

Tomorrow we start out on visiting the many WWI sites scattered around the area. This time next week we will be in the plane flying home. Been a tough few weeks, enjoyable but little time to rest. I am pleased I messed up my leave dates and have a further week off work when I get home.

Last night Rayls watched a Steven Seagal movie on TV, bad enought at the best of times but this was dubbed in French. So bad it was funny! We have even watchefme episodes of the TV series Friends dubbed into French, kind of weird!