Day 3 - we began the day at Beaumont-hamel, at the location where the Newfoundlanders went over the top, on the first of July 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme. We saw the remenants of the trenches (St. Johns road, Uxbridge Road, Fethard... and the Front Line) through which the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment marched forward, across a most disadvantageous position towards the German line position, losing nearly 70% of its men. The monument of 'the caribou' reminds us of their sacrifice.
We proceeded toward 'the sunken road' from where the famous image was captured of the mines being detonated along the ridge south of Serre. We learned about the failure in tactics and the lessons learned and then experienced a reinactment of the terrible walk across no-mans-land... the death walk. Alex, Anna and I didn't get far before symbolically being shot down in our tracks.
After lunch we visited the Devonshire's cemetery; a most moving experience. To see where our nearest County neighbours lie, walking the ground they walked, and standing where they fell was heartbreaking. It was however, also amazing to imagine the commeraderie of the regeiment to know that, comfortingly, they lie together for eternity.
The afternoon's stop was at Catepillar cemetery, and to demonstrate how far the pupils had come in their understanding of the terrain, they were let loose with a map and told to interpret the landscape, apply their knowledge and come back and tell the story. And fundamentally, the story is one of lessons learned... moving forward, acquiring enemy trenches, using new technology (the tank) and trusting the command of the officers on the ground. By Autumn 1916, the Germans were being pushed back.
We finished the afternoon at the Thiepval Memorial and Cemetery. Here is the monument to the missing of the Battle of the Somme, and where we found on panel 6A the name of Leiutenant Edward James Smith of the 8th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment - Science Master at Hugh Sexey School and son of the Head Teacher. It was a most incredible and moving experience.
We ended the day, by investigating the changes in a soldier's kit and provision from WWI to today. We have 3 serving soldiers with us on this trip, and tonight we were able to try on and compare the clothing, armour, first aid and food provision from 1916 and 2016. Surprisingly, although the materials have changed and the equipment developed, the same basic needs exist today for soldiers on the front line as did 100 years ago.... food, water, camouflage , warmth, first aid and protection.