We thought we might grab a few hours of sleep after entertaining yesterday but what with it being light till late we only ended up with a half hour catnap. At midnight we were packed and ready to hit the road to Dover. Nicholas being the super organised OCD brother that he is had the route set on the Satnav and snacks atnd drinks at the ready. Just before we arrived at Dover an SMS alerted us that our Ferry had been cancelled! Luckily we were in plenty of time and managed to book onto an earlier one. BUT – at that time of the morning the club class lounge was closed! Hopefully we’ll get a refund!
So we had to slum it in steerage! Our closest travelling companions were a class of 42 twelve year olds on an educational tour to Germany! We were impressed with their behaviour and the teacher was clearly pleased when we told her so!
The crossing took an hour an half to Calais and we were soon on our way to Arras. Monday is not a good day to look for a breakfast place in France as nothing opens till 10. We had to settle for a Subway where we had coffee and a choc chip cookie.
We were not lucky with the weather today and in spite of it being 1 July we experienced low “Cape Winter” temperatures.
On 1 July 1916 at 07:28 The Battle of the Somme started on a Five Mile Front. The aim of the British Troops consisting mainly of soldiers of the 36 Ulster Division was to break through the German lines and defeat the German army. It was also hoped that this attack would help the French army which had been under a strong German attack at Verdun. The first Battle of the Somme was the bloodiest and most costly unsuccessful Allied offensive on the Western Front during World War I. General Douglas Haig, the commander of the British troops was highly criticized because he carried on with the battle when 24,000 people had alredy died in one day! The Battle ended on 13 November 1916.
Today being the anniversary of the first day of this battle, Nicholas and I attended a commemoration ceremony at the Memorial in Thiepval. The Thiepval Memorial is the largest of the Memorials to the Missing.
I found the ceremony very moving. War is an ugly affair and it’s horrifying to think how many battles were fought and how many people suffered during those times.
Later we attended another commemoration service at the Ulster(Northern Ireland) Memorial Tower to remember the men of Northern Ireland who died at the Battle of The Somme. It was lovely to see an Australian Lady dressed up in a nurse’s uniform from that time.
Wreaths were laid and Nicholas put down some Poppy Crosses for 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Lambert Lack, Lieutenant Matthew John Wright and Lieutenant George Radcliffe who all survived the first day of The Battle of The Somme but on the second day Radcliffe who was Lack’s brother in law got into difficulties in no man’s land. Lack and Wright went to Radcliffes aid and all three were blown up. Two were killed instantly and Lack lasted 14 days. Radcliffe and Wright’s names are on the Thiepval Memorial but as Lack died on the hospital ship in Dover, he is buried in his home parish in Thames Ditton in Surrey. Nicholas has the portrait of Lack which he has researched. Through it he got to know his family.
It was 5 0’clock when we got to our hotel in Arras – The Balladin and we crashed for an hour. We are now going out for a proper French meal!