This is turning out to be a great experience for everyone on the ‘tour’ this year – despite initial poor weather, and a few delays on the first day. Nonetheless, we visited Beaumont Hamel and La Boiselle (both sites of tragic slaughter on the first day of the Somme). The La Boiselle site (1st and 2nd pictures below) is where about three quarters of two brigades – Tyneside Scottish and Tyneside Irish – fought and died. If the British dead make a part of Belgium or France forever British, then La Boiselle is surely forever Newcastle.
At Beaumont Hamel, thousands of Canadian soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment were mown down by enemy machine gun fire and shelling before they had even reached their own front lines. The regiment was virtually annihilated on the first day of the Somme. The view in the first photograph is from the German position. The group in that picture are standing roughly where Canadian Troops, would have been standing going ‘over the top’ on that fateful day and would have been as visible to German machine gunners. The second sees Mr Tilbrook showing students the Canadian lines.
This year Mr Davies spent a bit of extra time at Beaumont Hamel before joining the rest of the tour at Thiepval memorial where Newcastle Commercials attacked the German front line – with little success – on that first morning of July 1st 1916.