June 7th was a dramatic
shifting of gears, from the wide open spaces of France and the Second
World War battlefields, to the concentrated killing fields of the Somme.
One is immediately struck by how close together all the major monuments in
the area are to one another, and how many well-tended cemeteries there
are; one can scarcely get out of eyesight of one before spotting two more.
Under the direction of the
two tour guides, Jim Henderson and Sergeant Denny Russell, the buses made
their way back in time to the summer of 1916, eventually setting foot on
the ground at several monuments, including the Thiepval Memorial, the
Piper's Memorial, the Courcellette Memorial, and a guided tour at
Newfoundland Park at Beaumont Hamel. An arranged lunch at the Tommy Cafe
permitted a walk-through of the outdoor trench exhibit there.
Greetings from a friendly face at the Tommy Cafe in Belgium.
The Golden Virgin of
Albert, snapped from the bus window. Many legends sprang from this statue
during the First World War after a shell hit it on January 15, 1915, and
it keeled over but did not topple from the steeple. At that time, just
three miles from the front, soldiers gazed on the precariously perched
statue - left dangly nearly horizontal - and told each other the statue's
fate would determine the outcome of the war. In March 1918, the Germans
took Albert, and the statue finally fell in April. Albert was recaptured
in August. After the war, the town and the basilica were rebuilt, and a
replica statue restored to its place of honour.
Photo by Michael Dorosh