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

- Memorials, Thiepval
- Ulster Tower,

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

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

- Verdun



Visit to the Western Front
Part 1: Belloy-en-Santerre and NW

By Brian Pohanka - October 20, 1999

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

We rented our car in Paris, and tired as we were, it being early in the day, got on the Autoroute and drove north, getting some strong coffee en route. Got off at Belloy-en-Santerre, the town where American poet Alan Seeger was killed on July 4, 1916 while serving with the Foreign Legion. Like many of the farm towns, this one was nearly deserted when we drove in and parked in front of the church that has a bell in the steeple, donated by Seeger's parents. His name appears on the war memorial -- almost all those towns, big or small has one -- his body was never found (he was cut down with many others in the flat open field just southwest of Belloy). An older man was tending the monument, and I explained to him, in French, that I was going to read Seeger's poem "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," and also place a small photo of Seeger (Xerox in a plastic sleeve) there in his honor. The man took off his cap and stood by with head bowed as I read the poem. He then suggested that since the little image would blow away in a wind, he would take me to the Mairie (Mayor's Office) and introduce me. This he did, and the Mayor's assistant accepted the image and placed it with the framed copy of "Rendezvous" that was hanging on the wall. The Mairie also doubled as a day care center for about a dozen kids. That was the start of our WWI excursion. Next on the agenda was the site where von Richthofen was shot down -- this as we headed northwest toward our base of operations for the Somme sector, at Albert.

Armed with Xeroxes from the the book The Red Baron's Last Flight, we found the spot where he was brought down -- first locating the brickworks that stood there in 1918 and still do -- though in a derelict condition. It was across the country road in front of the brickworks that the famous red triplane came to rest against a pile of beets -- as evidenced in the aerial photos of that time. The field today was furrowed and recently harvested, also quite muddy, but I dutifully walked out to about the spot that the "Red Baron" came to earth. The best indication is that an Australian machine gunner, not pilot Roy Brown, accounted for the famous Ace -- i.e. he was struck by groundfire. He was flying low, and just about any Aussie with a rifle or firearm of any kind was blazing away, and we can never know with certainty which individual fired the fatal bullet -- though Sgt. Cedric C. Popkin seems the most likely candidate. Like so many sites on the Western Front, this spot is not marked or memorialized -- but armed with the period photos and maps it is possible to locate with pretty good certainty, even to within a few yards.

red poppy by DLO

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