Britain 2011 - Day 4


Tuesday, and Day 2 of our three day tour of the battlefields. Today we went north from Amiens to Passchendale, finishing at Ypres and the Menin Gate. On the way were were able to stop at two cemeteries and found the graves of two relatives who had enlisted in the Australian Army and were buried, one near Amiens and the other at Bapaume.

Once again Sylvestre from Terre de Mémoire was ready and waiting for us with his mini-bus. We picked up the two Australian couples and stopped at the Cemetery of Amiens just on the edge of the city.

St Pierre Cemetery, Amien

Our first stop was the St Pierre Cemetery at Amiens. It is a "cimetiere communal", but at the rear are the French and Commonwealth military cemeteries. Here we expected to find the grave of 1000 Private W.G. Taylor, Colma's great-uncle. He was actually William George BROWN, but enlisted as TAYLOR, his step-father's name. His grave is in the middle of the Commonwealth plots, close to the memorial stone and the Cross of Sacrifice.

The gate to the cemetery
The avenue of trees from the entrance
Notice telling of the location of the military cemetery at the rear
The main French military cemetery. The unusual headstone is for a Muslim soldier
The Commonwealth section
Will Taylor's headstone on the right
Closeup of the headstone
Colma leaving a poppy on the grave.


Bapaume was liberated in late March 1917 by Australian and New Zealand troops. A night later a large explosion from a hidden mine killed 19 Australians. Today the town still flies the Australian and New Zealand flags in the centre of the town, close to where the Australians were killed.

Entering Bapaume
The centre of town with the fountain and Australian and New Zealand flags
The New Zealand flag in front of the town hall
The statue in the centre
Shops on the square
Street sign adjacent to the town hall
Plaque on the wall recording the explosion
The list of those killed

Bullecourt - another Australian battle and another cemetery

Bullecourt was the site of another major Australian battle. Today the battlefield is a broad flat expanse of farmer's crops with an impressive memorial and bronze statue. It was here that Colma's other great-uncle died and was later buried at the small cemetery at Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines.

First, we stopped in Bullecourt where there is an Australian memorial across the road from the town hall, and Le Canberra Pub. Then just down the road is the larger memorial and statue.

Michael Moroney was killed on 11 April 1917, the first day of the Australian offensive
The town hall at Bullecourt
Le Canberra pub
Base of the flagpole
Bronzed slouch hat on the memorial
Plaque at the flagpole
On the base of the flagpole
The flagpole and various memorials

Bullecourt memorial

A short distance from the town is the site of the battle, with the Australian memorial.

The Bullecourt Digger
The rear of the memorial
The Digger
Wreaths on the statue
The battle
The statue
Panorama across the battlefield

Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines

Our next stop was the small Commonwealth cemetery ofTilloy-Les-Mofflaines. Here we found Michael Moroney, died 11 April 1917. As with many of these cemeteries, a large number of the headstones are simply for "An Australian Soldier of the Great War" - i.e. unnamed. We were fortunate with Michael, he was one of the few in this section that had a name.

Looking over Tilloy British Cemetery from the road - left section.
Looking over Tilloy British Cemetery from the road - right section
From the rear and the section of Australian graves
The row containing Michael Moroney..
The row containing Michael Moroney
Michael Moroney on the right with an unknown Australian and two Canadians
The headstone
The upper inscription
The lower inscription paid for by the family


Sylvestre then took us to another of his favourite cafes for lunch, where we had "sandwiches" of large filled rolls. The cafe was on one corner of the market square, dominated by large, almost identical buildings.

The Market Square
Sylvestre and his mini-bus


Fromelles is a new Commonwealth Cemetery, created in early 2010 for the reburial of 250 bodies exhumed close by at Pheasant Wood. The battle of Fromelles was the first engagement for Australian troops, and was another fruitless loss of life and loss of ground. The dead could not be recovered and the battle was quietly forgotten by the British. The dead were later recorded with no known grave. However the German troops had neatly buried the fallen in six graves adjacent to Pheasant Wood. Apparently the local farmers knew of this for they had never cultivated that area, but a chance discovery unearthed the graves. The Australian and British Governments then set about excavating the site, unearthing 250 bodies and around 6,200 artifacts. DNA analysis was later used to identify some of the bodies. The local community is divided on the exhumation. Many believe that the soldiers had been given a decent burial at the time and should have been left at rest, as so many of their comrades are.

Pheasant Wood with the grave sites near the trees.
The new Cemetery at Fromelles
Looking across to the village of Fromelles
The entrance to the cemetery.
Description of the battle
.The process of exhumation and reburial

VC Corner Cemetery

VC Corner is another large Australian Cemetery, this one being to the unnamed at Fromelles. It's unusual feature is the lack of headstones. All the names are recorded on the panels on the main memorial.

VC Corner Cemetery
The main memorial, note the absence of headstones
The memorial
The memorial and the roses

Menin Gate and Ypres

We continued to drive north, and shortly crossed over the border into Belgium. We continued to drive on an almost billiard-table smooth landscape of various crops, mostly sugar-beet. Eventually we reached Ypres where we had booked into the Ariane Hotel (an excellent choice with comfortable rooms and top quality food). On the way to the hotel we stopped at the Menin Gate. We returned later in the evening to watch the Last Post being played. Every evening the road through the Gate is closed off and buglers from the local fire brigade play the Last Post, often accompanied by the laying of a wreath. On the night of our visit, a group of Canadian cadets was visiting as well.

The Menin Gate at Ypres
Inscription inside the Gate
The road through the gate and the ceiling architecture
Looking through the gate towards Ypres
From one of the side galleries
The roof portals
The Gate
The British Lion on the Gate
From the street, with Colma sitting at the local cafe eating lunch.
The full architecture of the Menin Gate adjacent to the river.
The nearby street records a famous resident
Plaque recording the Last Post
The crowd gathers...
The Canadian cadets in their red
The crowd blocks the street
Parading the flag.
The buglers arrive.....
and play the Last Post.

The Last Post ceremony is over in 10-15 minutes, the crowd disburses and the road re-opens to traffic. It has been this way almost every night since 1918 and the town seems to just organise itself around it.

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Last updated: 19/06/2017