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Brian Pohanka
The Western Front:
- Belloy-en-Santerre
- Flaucourt, Bray, Albert
- Y-Sap, Lochnager
   Craters

- Memorials, Thiepval
- Ulster Tower,
   Beaumont

- The Somme
- The Fallen Soldier
- Mametz Wood
- Delville Wood, High
   Wood

- Newfoundland Park
- Hawthorne Crater
- Arras
- Proyart, Chevauchee
- Mort Homme, Fort
   Vaux

- Verdun

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Visit to the Western Front
Part 2: Flaucourt, Bray, Albert...

By Brian Pohanka - October 21, 1999

This brief sketch was originally posted at a Civil War discussion group site and is reprinted here with the author's permission.

En route to Albert we drove through Flaucourt, which like so many French villages has a war memorial bearing the names of the fallen in "La Guerre 14-18" as they tend to call that conflict. This was a poilu atop a pedestal, and as I saw in several cases it was painted -- the weapons and equipment, the "horizon blue" uniform and helmet, etc.

In Bray we stopped at a very old church that was not too badly damaged (unusual), and then up the hill about half a mile to a German Cemetery. Like most of the German cemeteries, we saw there were somber rows of black iron crosses -- that is a regular type cross (not Maltese) but of iron -- usually two to four men in a grave. One could see where stones had been set up for German Jewish soldiers -- I am told that Hitler had ordered the original markers to Jewish soldiers removed and that in more recent times these have been replaced with markers bearing the man's name, unit, date of death and a Star of David. In almost all of the cemeteries we visited, Allied or German, we were the only people there. Almost all of these many cemeteries has a little bronze door, near the entrance, which one opens to find a registery of those interred there, and also a "comments book" like the kind of thing one sees at National Park sites.

Driving into Albert one immediately notices the famous Basilica, all but demolished in the War, but now rebuilt as it had been before the conflict. This was one of the most photographed landmarks of the Somme -- atop it was a guilt state of the Virgin and Child, which for many months in 1916 hung out over the ravaged town, and the popular supersitition was that once it fell, the War would end. Well eventually a German shell brought it down, and the War did not end. As I saw, the Basilica, quite an imposing building, has been rebuilt. Underneath it, and running beneath the now rebuilt town of Albert, are a series of tunnels which were used to shelter soldiers from the shelling. There is now a museum there, including photos, artifacts, dioramas, mannequins wearing uniforms of the time, and so on.

We explored this, and then still having some time (tired as we were) we manevered our little tin-can car (Citroen) NE of Albert a few kilometers to La Boiselle. This was the scene of some of the worst fighting on July 1, 1916 -- the first day of the British Offensive -- in which more than 60,000 men were casualties on the British side alone.

red poppy by DLO

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