"I WOULD NOT BE HERE IF HE HAD!"
Following Australian footsteps through the battlefields of the Western Front.
Click here to jump straight to the revised 2003 Introduction)
|My Grandfather (Pop), Robert Ralph Abercromby, served as a private
(No. 2660) in "D" Company, 44th Battalion, in the 3rd Division of the Australian
Imperial Force (AIF) in World War 1. Fortunately he kept a diary of his
experiences in France and Belgium during the War.
Military records obtained from the Australian Archives show, he enlisted in Fremantle, Western Australia, on the 28th June 1916 at the age of 33 and 11 months. After initial training, he embarked for England on the 9th November and arrived in Devonport on the 10th January 1917. His Battalion was shipped to France on the 25th April 1917 and he was wounded in action during the fighting on Messines Ridge on the 10th June 1917. After treatment in France and England, he was declared "Return to Australia" and left England on 28th September 1917, finally being discharged in Fremantle on 13th March 1918. Some would say he was lucky.
I was five when Pop died in 1963, so I only have childhood memories of him. Dad (Robert Bruce Abercromby, known as Bruce) was born in 1932, the youngest of seven children, when his father was 50. So when I came on the scene in 1958, Pop was 76. I remember his walking stick and the little toy dog he kept under his seat, which mysteriously ran back and forward and barked when I walked past, the house Nana and Pop lived in, in Shenton Road, Claremont, Western Australia and other vague recollections.
As I grew up I obviously learnt that he had fought in World War 1 and in recent years I obtained a copy of his military records and diary from my Auntie Jean (McDonald). This information kindled my desire to follow Pop's footsteps and in some small way experience where he had been.
Last month (May 1998) I had the opportunity to visit the Western Front and follow his and other Australian footsteps left on the Western Front in the North of France and Belgium. I am pleased and proud to say I took the time to visit this historically significant region.
From my point of view, Australia's military heritage is focused on our baptism of fire at Gallipoli. Whilst other campaigns in World War 1 and 2, Korea, and Vietnam are remembered, little attention seems to be paid to those Australians killed or wounded on the dreadful battlefields of the Western Front from 1916 to 1918.
The major campaigns of World War 1 appear as names on War Memorials however they held little meaning to me, until I started taking an interest in where my Grandfather and other Australians fought.
In recent years the Gallipoli peninsula has become a Mecca for Australian and New Zealand travellers, particularly on ANZAC day. I hope to get there myself someday. Their attendance honours the loss suffered by all those young men who fought and died there. However I wonder how many are aware of the huge number of similar young men buried or listed without a known grave in the numerous cemeteries that cover the Western Front. I certainly was not.
My personal journey of discovery was greatly assisted by the Office of Australian War Graves which produces a very handy booklet entitled "A Guide to Australian Memorials on the Western front, in France and Belgium", and Tom Morgan who developed and edits the Hellfire Corner web site. His prompt e-mails to my requests for information were full of suggestions and advice that was very helpful indeed.
The following recollection is not as detailed as "Tom Morgan's Somme Diary", nor is it meant to be a definitive guide to Australian sites on the Western Front, it is merely notes on my own trip through the region.
Mark's Additional introductory notes - November 2003
Back to the Western Front.
My initial trip to the Western Front in 1998 was based on the notion of following my grandfather's footsteps in World War 1 and to visit Messines where he was wounded in 1917.
Since Tom Morgan listed my trip comments on his Hellfire Corner website in mid 1998, I have been gratified by the number of emails I have received from people around the world commenting on their connection with the Western Front and in particular Australia's involvement in this theatre of war.
I receive regular emails from students and people keen to trace their own family connections to the Western Front. I appreciate the emails and am willing to assist wherever I can.
I am embarrassed to recall on my first night in the Somme in 1998, I was asked by an Englishman, if any Australians fought in the area. Through sheer ignorance I told him that we were more involved to the north (around Ypres) and west (around Villers-Bretonneux). The next day I visited Pozieres, Monquet Farm and the Windmill site, all major Australian battlefields on the Somme in July and August 1916. I wanted to meet the person again and correct my earlier comments, however given the existing memorials at these sites hopefully he found out for himself.
During my time on the Western Front in 1998, I took the opportunity to visit the memorials to all 5 Australian Divisions plus major Australian battlefield sites such as Fromelles, Bullecourt, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Pozieres, Monquet Farm, Windmill site, Bapaume, le Hamel and Villers-Bretonneux, Mont St Quentin and Peronne.
I think it is fair to say that most Australians consider Gallipoli as our major campaign of World War One, however in recent years, through education, family history and general awareness, Australians seem to have begun to appreciate the significance of the Western Front in our military history.
Regular emails and exposure through Tom's site whetted my appetite to learn more about the Western Front and not just rely on the memory of one short trip.
I am pleased to say that I have had the opportunity to return to the Western Front on two separate occasions since 1998. These return visits in 2000 and 2003 have enabled me to revisit areas of interest as well as witness the increased recognition of the significance of the Western Front in our modern history. New Australian memorials at Fromelles and le Hamel and other new or revamped National sites of remembrance are testament to this.
In 2000 I travelled along the Western Front with an Australian business colleague. Our trip started in Brussels, and the battlefield of Waterloo (worth a side trip if you are in the area). Overnight stays in Ypres and the Somme allowed us time to visit Tyne Cot, Ypres, attend the Last Post at Menin Gate, the local museum at Bullecourt and various significant Australian sites I had not visited before such as Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Pool of Peace and the Lochnagar Crater.
In 2003 I had the good fortune to meet Tom Morgan in Ypres while he was on tour with a group of students. I had emailed him on the off chance that he may be in the area at the same time as me. Fortunately my one day in Ypres coincided with his. After 5 years of email correspondence it was great to finally meet him. Where did we arrange to meet? In Flanders Field (museum) of course.
My two day trip did not allow me a lot of time. However after flying into Paris from Australia I was able to pick up a car from Charles de Gaulle Airport and head north to Peronne in time for the opening of the "Historial". Visits to the great little museum at Villers-Bretonneux and the Australian Memorial at le Hamel plus other sites along the way meant I arrived in Ypres before nightfall (despite traffic hassles in the suburban sprawl of Lille) and in time for the Last Post at Menin Gate (still as moving the third time round).
The following day I met Tom for coffee and a chat. We walked down to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission office to collect some wreaths for his student group. While there I took the opportunity to purchase some overlaid maps showing the location of all Commonwealth War Grave Sites on the Western Front.
After saying farewell to Tom I visited the Yorkshire Trench just out of Ypres that the Belgium "Diggers" recently restored and took time to visit the major German cemetery at Langemarck. The return trip to Paris was by way of Messines and Fromelles.
The two day, one night trip from Paris was straightforward however next time I will hire a small or medium car rather than a compact Micro. Because of distances involved I had to spend some time on the Motorway. Unfortunately the Mirco hire car was cheap but not really suitable for driving on the Motorway. The rubber band was humming away and I could not get any further right, all the trucks had to overtake me.
Obviously there will always be more knowledgeable people than me, who know the campaigns and the military history of the region. However I am satisfied in the knowledge that I have had the opportunity to revisit the Western Front and in some small way provide an insight into what the Western Front means to me, an average Australian.
I would like to think that in some small way my comments on the Hellfire Corner site have helped foster a desire to appreciate and understand more about Australia's involvement on the Western Front in World War One.
Thanks for your continued support and interest.
Most visitors to the Western Front arrive from across the English Channel. Due to work commitments in Germany I was driving from Frankfurt so I made my first overnight stop in Verdun.
I left Fussen at the base of the Bavarian Alps in Southern Germany and drove up to Frankfurt Airport, dropped off my business colleague, then headed toward France. The plan was to make it to Rheims. However commonsense took over and at around 8 p.m. I decided that Verdun would do. I am glad I did.
I was vaguely aware of the fighting around Verdun but did not realize how important it was, nor how fiercely it was fought over by the French, German and ultimately the American troops. I was unprepared for the unimaginable loss of life suffered in this now peaceful part of France.
The helpful staff at the Tourism Office in Verdun spoke English and I obtained some excellent guidebooks and ventured out of town. The 'Verdun champs de bataille' route map was easy to follow and was complemented by roadside signposts. 'The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Verdun' was very informative with French, German and English captions to most exhibits. Their English souvenir guide was very helpful. I also took time to visit the Douaumont Ossuary and the National Cemetery, the ruins of Fort Douaumont and the 'Trench of the Bayonets'.
The Douaumont Ossuary was very moving. On every block in its interior walls are etched the names of French soldiers who lost their lives. The vaults contain the remains of 130,000 unknown soldiers and in front of this sanctuary a further 15,000 identified French soldiers lie buried in the National Military Cemetery.
The 'Trench of the Bayonets' highlights some of the horrors of war. One of the guidebooks I collected from the Verdun Tourist Office notes that on the 12th of June 1916, a detachment of the French 137th Infantry Regiment was caught by an intensive enemy bombardment, and buried in the trench in which they had sought shelter. After the battle, the only sign of these men were the several hundred bayonets protruding from the ground. I learnt after my visit that the American troops distinguished themselves on the Verdun front, in Argonne and in the area of Saint- Mihiel. Impressive monuments have been erected to their memory in Montfaucon and Montsec. In Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, the largest American military cemetery in Europe, lie the bodies of 15,000 American soldiers. I intend visiting these sites and others when I return to Verdun, the United Nations designated "World Capital of Peace, Freedom and Human Rights".
As the Battle of the Somme was apparently staged in part to draw German forces away from Verdun and thus ease the pressure on the French forces, I am glad I took the opportunity to visit this moving area prior to driving to the Western Front.
After a quick visit to the famous Rheims cathedral I made for the 'Historial de la Grande Guerre', in Peronne. This tri-lingual museum is excellent and well worth a visit. It succeeds in giving an insight into the history and events before, during and after the First World War from a British, French and German perspective. Guide books and maps are available from the well-stocked bookshop.
Fortunately my visit coincided with an Australian photographic exhibition. At the entrance to the 'Historial' I came across the first of many bronze plaques highlighting Australian endeavours during the Great War. These plaques were unveiled in 1993 and were placed by Ross Bastiaan of Melbourne, Australia. Ross sculpted each map, wrote the text, raised the money from Australian companies and individuals and cemented them in place. In his words he "did them so the next generation knew the truth about our diggers". During my trip I was to find these plaques at the sites of all major battlefields or sites of Australian military significance throughout the Western Front. The plaques are very informative and are a credit to Ross and his supporters.
After a prolonged visit I rejoined the motorway and drove to Ypres (Ieper). On arrival I set about finding some accommodation. Fortunately I had some recommendations to go by, courtesy of people who had written to Tom Morgan. I was very surprised to find that the 'Gasthof 'T Zweerd' on the main square did not have any shower facilities - therefore I would not recommend it. The four star 'Ariane Hotel' looked very nice but unfortunately it was fully booked. I then walked across to the 'The Shell Hole, Hotel and Militaria Shop' and secured a room with ensuite for the night. I really enjoyed my stay here and would recommend it to anybody. The publican John Woolsgrove had lots of stories to tell and we shared a few drinks, laughs and tales with David Bartlett of Bartletts Battlefield Journeys who was also in the cosy bar.
The most moving event of the entire trip was the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate. At 8 pm I joined approximately 200 others and stood in silence as two buglers from the Ypres Fire Brigade marched to the middle of the gate and played The Last Post. This ceremony has been held very night (apart from a period during WW2) since 11th November 1929. I made a point of saying thank you to the buglers after the ceremony.
The magnificent Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing of the Salient bears the names of more than 54,000 British soldiers who died during the War. The names of 6,176 Diggers who died in Flanders and have no known grave are engraved on the walls of this great archway.
The impressive reconstructed Cloth Hall in the town square now houses the recently opened "In Flanders Fields" Museum, which is very informative and well worth a visit. As well as modern audio visual displays and exhibits the Museum presents numerous eye-witness accounts of the Great War. The gas display was particularly moving. The aerial photographs of the front line surrounding Ypres in July 1917 overlaid on a current map of the region were interesting to see.
After visiting the tranquil Ramparts British Military Cemetery and Hellfire Corner on the edge of the town of Ypres, I made for the Passchendaele (Passendale) - Broodseinde Ridge, the scene of very heavy fighting. Known as the 'Third Battle of Ypres', All five AIF divisions were engaged in the fighting between July and October 1917. In the nearby Tyne Cot cemetery, 1,368 Australians are buried, more than other cemetery on the Western Front. The cross at Tyne Cot Cemetery stands on top of an old German blockhouse, which was captured by the AIF 3rd Division on 4 October 1917.
At nearby 'Polygon Wood' is the 5th Division Memorial which stands on the butte overlooking a British Cemetery. 'Polygon Wood' was recaptured by the 5th Division AIF after heavy fighting in September 1917. A little further South, the Australian 1st Tunnelling Company Memorial at Hill 60 in Zwart-Leen, Ypres, remembers the men who fought above and below the ground to prevent the Germans from finding the galleries and mines. The Germans were holding this fiercely contested observation point in November 1916 when the Australian 1st Tunnelling Company took over the maintenance of the British mine beneath it. Today Hill 60 is an enclosed grassy area of craters, shell holes and mounds.
To the south lies the town of Messines (Mesen) where my grandfather was wounded on 10 June 1917.
Pop's diary reads:
"June 6th Great preparations for the Big Push which starts tonight. We were all asleep and the Alarm went gas had to wake each other up to put our Gas Helmets on. No more sleep. Stragglers coming in gassed. Barrage started after three. Mine blew up signal. Take it Messines went up. Prisoners coming in wholesale. Word came back reached objective. 47 Batt. had to fall back. We started to advance on June 8 & I think we advanced 2 miles & just before dawn we charged Fritz but he had cleared. Coming up he sent a lot of Gas Shells along side of us & you can imagine us groping over & in shell holes. I had mask on & fell in shell hole, had to lie there till nearly dawn as I was lost in No Mans Land. Found my way into N.Z. trenches and got on our Batt track just as they were digging in. 9 in our Gun Crew were wounded already, had to advance another 150 yards on the right side of Messines Road. What a Hellish Fire digging in for our lives. Had to hold on for a day & night, heaviest barrage next day, advance another 150 yards. Machine, Sniper, H.E., Whizz Bang in fact every kind of fire directed against us. Fritz cleared out of his trenches we leaped them & dug in 20 yards further on. Hung on for 1 day & night & on being relieved while stealthily creeping back some of the boys would keep moving when the flare went up & Fritz set to work with all his Artillery on us when I got some of it. Got it about 7 o'clock at night & lay all night till the stretcher bearers came & got me in the morning. Taken through Messines then to Bailleul and on to Boulogne after being in Wimereux."
I thought about this record as I stood in the Messines Ridge British Cemetery and looked out down the ridge and back toward the town. As with all the cemeteries I visited they are very tranquil and belie the horror that they store beneath the green grass. The fact that so many bodies are unidentified and thus only "Known unto God" highlights the hellishness of the battles that our forebears fought and suffered in. It is hard to comprehend the supposed 'rationality' behind this senseless waste of human life.
I took the opportunity to visit the Messines Historical Museum, 'Relics of the Great War'. This small museum is located in the centre of Messines and is faithfully looked after by Albert Ghesquire. The museum is normally open on Sunday afternoon, but Albert can be contacted and he will come up and open it. I was fortunate in that I only had to wait for a few minutes before Albert turned up leading a group of local school children he was about to show through the collection. He asked me where I was from and I told him I was Australian and that my grandfather fought around Messines, to which he inquired whether he had been killed. I replied "I would not be here if he had". I was touched that he was then able to retell our conversation to the assembled schoolchildren and teachers who all seemed to be impressed with my presence.
(Sadly Albert Ghesquire has past away. However according to a spokesperson from the Historical Commitee at Messines, their museum is open daily from Easter to 11 November - MA).
Leaving Messines behind I headed South through Ploegsteert, Armentieres, Lille, Arras and Bapaume to Les Galets where I had reserved accommodation for the next two nights. Tom Morgan's recommendation and road directions were greatly appreciated. I would have had serious trouble finding the property without the instructions. However I am sure anybody else with vague knowledge of the region would not have any problems finding it. Les Galets was very comfortable. I enjoyed the meals and the kind hospitality extended to me by Julie Renshaw.
Other guests included Mick and Trish Brand from Hatfield in Doncaster, West Yorkshire who were on one of several return visits to the region. I was fascinated by their research into the members of their community who had lost their lives in France during World War 1. They had taken the trouble to find and record the graves and circumstances behind the deaths of those young men listed on the cenotaph in the town square of their village. By coincidence they came from Hatfield and I live in Hatfield Way.
Off the main street of Baupame heading toward Bullecourt I noticed a sign leading to the Baupame Australian Cemetery. This small cemetery is located on a crossroad between farms but is nevertheless as well kept as any of the larger cemeteries I have come across. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is to be commended for the way they have maintained the reverence of these significant sites.
|Next stop Bullecourt. During the first battle on 11 April 1917 the
4th Division AIF lost 4,170 men in one day; 1170 prisoners and 3,000 killed.
During the course of the second battle in May, Australia lost 7,000
In 1997 a signposted trail through the Australian battlefield was devised and constructed by various Government bodies in France in association with the Paddington Woolahra RSL and Hornsby RSL in New South Wales, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the battles around Bullecourt.
The Bullecourt Digger memorial, was erected between 1992 and 1993 by the Australian Government, as a tribute to "hope, pride and optimism." The commemorative plaque reads:
"Sacred to the memory of the 10,000 members of the Australian Imperial Forces who were killed or wounded in the two battles of Bullecourt, April - May 1917, and to the Australians dead and their comrades-in-arms who lie here forever in the soil of France. 'Lest we forget'."
On my way down from Messines the previous day I had missed the turn off to Fromelles, to the West of Lille. The motorway traffic moves very fast and without a navigator I found it difficult. Basically you have a rough idea where you are and where you want to go. You see the turn off you think you need, but do not recognise any of the towns listed, so with a degree of doubt you miss the turn off. Hence I had to back track to Fromelles. After my experience of wasting time driving around in circles, I made a point of buying Michelin Map no. 236 covering Nord, Flandres-Artois Picardie. This map has a 1cm:2km scale which I found to be very helpful, and obviously better than the Michelin Map no. 916 which covers France at a scale of 1cm:10km. No wonder I missed the turn off. I had purchased IGN Map no. 28 for my travels around Ypres and Messines, it was a great help in finding sites but at a scale of 1cm:500m it was difficult to drive to as I kept on driving past places I thought were further away. Next time I visit hopefully my wife will accompany me and help with the directions.
On the way I took time to visit the spectacular Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge. Then after getting lost in the motorway junctions around Lens I finally made it to Fromelles.
The Australian Memorial is located a couple of kilometres out of town and is the site of the first Australian attack in France on 19-20 July 1916. The VC Corner Australian Cemetery has no headstones and is the only all-Australian cemetery in France. Records show that the screen wall bears the names of 1,299 Australians who died in the ill-fated Battle of Fromelles and have no known grave. The unidentified bodies of 410 of them are buried under the lawns.
It was great to see the work being carried out by the Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs to ensure that exploits of Australian soldiers are remembered by future generations. The Australian Memorial Park is located next to the VC Corner Australian Cemetery near Fromelles and is due to open in July 1998.
After heading south through Bethune, Arras and Doullens I stopped off in Amiens to visit the magnificent Notre-Dame Catherdral. It is roughly twice as big as Notre-Dame in Paris and is very impressive to say the least.
Finding the exits out of Amiens during peak hour traffic was an experience, but I made it and headed East to the Australian National Memorial on the ridge above Villers-Bretonneux.
This impressive Memorial overlooks the surrounding countryside. The commemorative panels flanking the central tower list 10,982 Australian soldiers who died in France and have no known grave. Each year an ANZAC Day ceremony is held here.
Under the listing of the names of the Officers and Men of the 44th Battalion who died in France and have no known grave. I was pleased to find the names of Monaghan and McGrath were listed. In his diary, Pop mentions :
"Monday, 44th had a daylight raid, 36 over the top & brought back 3 prisoners. 6 of ours killed. Monaghan and McGrath killed poor beggars both married".
I had been looking for these names throughout my trip so I was glad I finally found and remembered them.
I understand there is a self guided Australian 1918 battlefield tour available from the Anzac Museum located in Victoria School, Villers-Bretonneux. Apparently this package includes maps, guidebooks and audio-tape. Unfortunately I did not obtain one but will look out for it the next time I visit. The Victoria School in Villers-Bretonneux is a memorial to Victorian soldiers of the First World War. The plaques on the wall one in French and one in English read:
"This school building is the gift of the school children of Victoria, Australia to the children of Villers-Bretonneux, as proof of their love and goodwill towards France. Twelve Hundred Australian soldiers the fathers and brothers of these children gave their lives in the heroic recapture of this town from the invader on 24th April 1918 and are buried near this spot. May the memory of great sacrifices in a common cause keep France and Australia together forever in bonds of friendship and mutual esteem."
After a very full day I returned to "Les Galets" for a great meal and a comfortable bed.
My final day in Europe was to be a busy one. I wanted to have a quick look at the local British Memorial sites on the Somme Battlefield, visit the remaining AIF Memorials and drive to Frankfurt to join my plane back to Perth.
I could not do justice to my location without taking a pre-breakfast walk. I walked up to Auchonvillers, then back via the very moving Newfoundland Beaumont-Hamel Memorial, 51st Highlanders Memorial, several British cemeteries, Hawthorn Ridge Crater and Sunken Road, all of which will forever be stark reminders of the futile Battle of the Somme.
Prior to my visit I was honestly unaware of the carnage that took place here. I still find it hard to comprehend how the hierarchy, through their stupidity and ignorance let the slaughter continue for so long.
Just above the Ancre River, on the road back to Pozieres lie the ruins of Mouquet farm, the scene of fierce fighting in July - September 1916. The Australian battle exploit plaque positioned on the side of the road overlooking the Mouquet Farm commemorates the AIF's effort and its 6,300 casualties. On a lighter note the Australian colours of Green and Gold brighten the fields of France.
After visiting the Ulster Memorial and the British National Memorial at Thiepval I paid homage to the two main Australian sites in Pozieres. The 1st Division Memorial is easily seen just off the Albert-Bapaume Road on the way to Albert, whereas "The Windmill Site" lies on the edge of the same road just to the north on the way to Bapaume.
The engraving on the bench at the "Windmill Site" reads:
"The ruin of Pozieres windmill which lies here was the centre of the struggles in this part of the Somme battlefield in July and August 1916. It was captured on 4th August by Australian troops, who fell more thickly on this ridge than any other."
At the "Windmill Site" I came across an Australian tour group, being escorted around significant Australian battlefield sites by a member of the Australian War Memorial staff. The Australian War Memorial, based in Canberra operates escorted tours to the Western Front which have proved to be very popular. Whilst I was at the "Windmill Site" the tour escort was reading a harrowing extract from the war diaries of an officer who fought here.
In Albert, I parked outside the church on which the new 'Golden Madonna' stands. Spent time in the interesting Museum, by the church and after emerging on the other side of the square found my way back to my car and drove to the 3rd Division Memorial. This obelisk is similar to other Australian memorials in France and Australia; and is situated on a ridge North of the Somme River near the town of Sailly-le-Sec, on the Bray- Corbie road.
On the way to revisit the Australian National Memorial at Villers- Bretonneux I stopped at le Hamel, the site of one of Australia's most successful battles. Fought on 4th July 1918, my guidebook notes that 'entirely under Australian planning and command, the victory established the pattern for Allied operations on the Western Front.'
In memory of the Australians who fought here and in other parts of France, the Australian Government is building an Australian Corps Memorial Park on the hill overlooking le Hamel.
The park is due to open in July 1998 and will act as a focal point for Australian visitors to the 1918 battlefields. When complete the Park will contain a walking track past a series of interpretative panels as well as a central commemorative area. I look forward to returning one day and seeing the final result.
|Just out of Peronne I completed my circle of the Western Front.
There were two more Australian sights I wanted to see before setting my mind
on the long drive back to Frankfurt.
The 2nd Division Memorial stands on a ridge overlooking Peronne in the village of Mont St Quentin on the Bapaume-Peronne Road. Peronne was captured by the AIF early in September 1918 in an operation linked to the taking of Mont St Quentin. Apparently the bronze Digger replaces the original statue which depicted a Digger about to bayonet a German eagle. The Germans removed it during their occupation in 1940.
Finally, the 4th Division obelisk; the easternmost of all AIF Memorials. Located on the top of a hill off a farm road near Bellenglise, this Memorial stands near the former Hindenburg Line.
Peacefully situated on a hill surrounded by crops, its sentinel presence, seems to sum up my experiences pretty well. The world has progressed, crops have been sown, life goes on, but the serenity of the place has been kept. Respect has been shown. I have been amazed at the number of Memorials scattered around the fields of France and Belgium. I have been impressed at how well they have been maintained. I have been bewildered to think of the death and suffering inflicted on and by both sides. But most of all I am pleased to say, I have remembered them.
References and acknowledgments:
"A Guide to Australian Memorials on the Western Front, in France and Belgium, April 1916-November 1918" published by the Office of Australian War Graves, Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs, January 1998.
Manager - Information Services
Australian War Memorial
GPO Box 345
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Tel: 02 6243 4315
Fax: 02 6243 4545
WW1 Personal Records Service
PO Box 117
MITCHELL ACT 2911
"Trenches on the Web" http://www.worldwar1.com
"The Australian's in World War One"
"World War 1"
Route de Beaumont
Tel & Fax: +33 322 76 28 79
For a direct link to the author of this article, email Mark Abercromby
And here is a link to Mark's Western Front Photo Album
Copyright © Mark Abercromby, June, 1998.
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