The Somme



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A trip to the Somme

It was a typical Welsh summer morning, wet, wet and more wet as ten members of the Bridgend Branch Comrades Association, Royal Welsh (24/41 Foot, RRW) set off from Sarn services heading  to the WWI battlefields of the Somme. Our main aim was to lay a wreath at the 38 Welsh  Div. memorial at Mametz Wood.

There's not a lot of excitement in a long drive along the M4, M25 and on to the ferry port at Dover. At first glance, the sea did not look too friendly, there was a lot of white water breaking on the surface.

Our onward journey south through France passed quietly and we arrived at Longueval where our self-catering accommodation was situated.

Our first visit was to the memorial at Thiepvel. This imposing memorial, the largest, was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, Constructed from red bricks and white limestone was build between 1928-32 and has the names of 72000 UK and South African dead with no known grave.

At Beaumont-Hamel is the Newfoundland Memorial. On 1July 1916, men from the Newfoundland Regiment were decimated by machinegun fire. A network of trenches has been preserved at this site.

A short drive away at La Boisselle is the Lochnagar Crater which is the site of a huge explosion that took place on 1 July 1916. The crater measures some 300 ft. wide by 75 ft. in depth.

The Somme museum at Albert is well worth a visit. Housed in underground tunnels with sound, light and images one can get an insight into the daily life in the trenches.


At Mametz wood near the village of Mametz, wreaths were laid at the 38Welsh Div memorial to commemorate men of the Welsh Regiment, South Wales Borderers and Royal Welsh Fusiliers who took part in this battle. In the photograph, left to right are Mel Thomas (SWB) Tom White (SWB) Geoff Durke (SWB Standard bearer) Bill John (WR). In the background Mametz wood can clearly be see with the open ground in front that soldiers had to cross in front of the well dug-in German machine guns. In total, the Division suffered 4000 casualties. Infuriatingly, many of the British shells that had been fired in the initial bombardment failed due to faulty shells. A short walk into the woods showed just how dense was the undergrowth.


At Longueval is the museum commemorating the South Africans battle at Delville Wood  a well presented tribute to the commonwealth troops who also made the ultimate sacrifice.


Next year is the centenary of the start of the Somme offensive. Accommodation in the area has been pre-booked for the last seven years. That gives an idea of the interest shown in the event.

I'm glad we got in early and were able to explore in some degree of calm and absorb the enormous sacrifice made by men of the 38 Welsh Division.  We will remember them.

Article submitted by Dave Davies

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