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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 4: Memorials, Thiepval

By Brian Pohanka - October 25, 1999

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

After walking about the edge of the Lochnager Crater, near La Boiselle, the wind blowing, sky graying, and some sprinkles of rain beginning to fall, we got back to our car as a large tour bus drove up. Prior to that we'd had the Crater, and its memories to ourselves. This would be the case at most of the places we visited. The occasional small group, often older British folks who'd lost a father or grandfather on the Somme, and sometimes a tour busload of British or French students. Otherwise very quiet, very peaceful, very sobering in the serenity and the memories.

Cricket was falling asleep (we had had no sleep to speak of since flying over from the U.S. and then driving north from Paris) but I wanted to make use of the time we had, so drove along the ridge to Pozieres and the Australian Memorial there. Nearby were the remains of the "Gibraltar Bunker" -- excavated in recent years -- one of those relics that speaks volumes for the sophistication and might of those defensive strongholds. In the distance, the huge Thiepval Memorial to the Missing loomed on the horizon. It is supposedly the largest war memorial in Europe, outside of the Soviet Union anyhow. On it are the names of 73,367 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed on the Somme, whose remains were never found, or never identified.

One of those whose names appears on the Thiepval Memorial is H.H. Munro -- better known as the author, short-story writer and wit "Saki" -- his pen-name. "Saki" was killed in the terrible fighting that erased Thiepval village and Thiepval wood. He was in an advanced "listening post", with other soldiers posted nearby, when in the darkness he spotted a match flare -- a Tommie was lighting a cigarette. -- "Put that bloody light out!" Sgt. Munro shouts -- and the fatal German bullet pinged into his helmet and head. The German had fired at the sound, not at the light. Buried near where he fell, his grave was lost in the subsequent fighting, and his name appears among the 70,000 plus on the Thiepval Memorial.

I walked up to the center of the huge structure -- it is open on the sides -- and at the altar-like block in the center -- inscribed "Their Name Liveth For Evermore" -- was a pile of paper poppies, popsicle stick crosses, copies of photos, letters to "grandad" or "my father"; very sentimental and heartfelt testimonials as one sees in our own country at the Vietnam Memorial. And I put my little photo of "Saki" there -- a Xerox of Munro in uniform that I'd put into a plastic sleeve (as I'd done with Alan Seeger at Belloy earlier that day). My tribute to this master of humour, irony and wit, among all those other tributes left by those who refuse to forget that terrible war and its terrible cost....

red poppy by DLO

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