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Memorials

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louvencourt
© Philippe Sergeant - Cd80

Louvencourt is located approximately 10 kilometres to the west of the former 1914-1916 battlefields. Until the British took over the sector in1915, the cemetery was used by the French Service de Santé des Armées. Most of the men buried here died in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

A permanent bi-national cemetery, bordered by a stone wall, was established here in 1921. It contains 227 graves of which 151 are Commonwealth and 76 are French. It was a prototype cemetery, the first attempt at creating a legacy of remembrance to the fallen, and was very influential to the architecture and guidelines of other Commonwealth military cemeteries. The French headstones, designed in an exceptional, rare shape, also attest to the consideration that was given to the architectural design of French cemeteries.

The grave of poet Roland Leighton is regularly adorned with violets in remembrance of his most famous poem Villanelle. His fiancé, Vera Brittain, paid tribute to Roland in her book Testament of Youth, published in 1933.

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louvencourt
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1st July 1916

On 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 34th Division was sent into attack astride the Albert-Bapaume road towards La Boisselle. Despite the British detonating two huge mines beneath German positions on either side of the village, the Germans showed great resistance and as the infantry launched its attack, many of the men were caught in the relentless machine gun fire coming from the ruined cellars of the village. Although some small parties managed to fight on continuing their advance beyond La Boisselle towards Contalmaison, few of these troops survived. A handful of men from 16th Royal Scots and 27th Northumberland Fusiliers did manage to enter the village but were forced to withdraw soon afterwards. This was the deepest penetration of the German position on the front that morning. The 34th Division suffered almost 7,000 casulaties on that day and the 16th Royal Scots (known as McCrae’s Battalion) lost 12 officers and 573 men.

McCrae's Battalion

The 16th Royal Scots Battalion was raised from volunteers in 1914 and affectionately known as McCrae’s Battalion after its charismatic colonel Sir George Mcrae. The  battalion was composed essentially of professional and amateur sportsman, including sixteen players from the Heart of Midlothian football team who enlisted along with 500 of their supporters. McCrae’s battalion was the first of the ‘Footballers’ battalions and the Hearts lads were joined by players from Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Hibernian, St Bernard’s and East Fife, supporters and other sportsmen and athletes.
 


1st July Ceremony
Every year on the 1st July, a commemoration is held at the McCrae's Battalion Memorial in remembrance of the men who fought and died in the Battle of the Somme. Please click here for information about the ceremony taking place on 1st July 2017.

The Scottish Cairn

In 2004, a memorial to McCrae’s Battalion was unveiled at Contalmaison. This Scottish cairn was erected by the Great War Memorial Committee and built by Scottish craftsmen from Morayshire stone upon a plot of land gifted by the village.

More information about McCrae's Battalion and the memorial can be found on the McCrae Battalion Trust website

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cairn de contalmaison
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In March 1918, the Germans launched a great Spring Offensive, pushing the British right back across the old 1916 battlefields, in the last hope of victory before the arrival of the American forces. The Australian Corps was rushed to the sector to relieve exhausted British units and help defend the greatly weakened lines immediately west of Albert.
At Dernancourt

Act of Bravery

The Australians took up positions along the embankment, just behind the cemetery, on 27th March. The next morning, in the half light of dawn, the Germans launched their attack. One Australian, Stanley McDougall of the 47th Battalion, heard the sound of their bayonet scabbards flapping on their thighs. He therefore ran along the railway track to warn his platoon and later seized a Lewis machine gun and rushed forward, opening fire upon the Germans as he went. When the casing of the Lewis gun barrel became so hot that he had burnt his hand, Sergeant JC Lawrence stepped in to help, holding the gun while McDougall continued to fire with his good hand. Sergeant McDougall’s prompt action had undoubtedly saved the position on that part of the railway, and for his cool display of courage and initiative he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Franco-Australian Friendship

Dernancourt has retained a close bond of friendship with the Australians ever since the war as the street name ‘Rue d’Australie’ and the school hall, named ‘Pavillon Adelaide’, show. After the war many regions of war-torn France were ‘adopted’ by places in the United Kingdom and other Allied countries. The local people, who had become refugees, were given assistance to re–establish their lives and homes. Dernancourt was treated in asimilar way by the people of South Australia.

Walking Trail

A new walking trail with markers at key locations, and supported by audio-guides, tells the story of Australia’s involvement here in 1918.  Sites of significance encompassed by the trail include: the Pavillon Adelaide, the railway embankment, the Support Line trench between the railway and the Amiens road, a position known as ‘the Quarry’, and the old Communal Cemetery. The audio-guides are available for free download to Android and Apple devices as part of the Australians in the Somme 16&18 app.
Download: Australians in the Somme 16&18 app for Android
Download: Australians in the Somme 16&18 app for Apple

 

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visuel Dernancourt
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memorial courcelette

 

The Canadians on the Somme

The Canadian Corps was deployed to the Somme at the beginning of September 1916, after having experienced their first baptism of fire on the Ypres Salient in 1915. Their first action on the Somme took place on 15 September 1916, during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, a battle made famous by the tanks that were used for the very first time.

That morning, the Canadian Corps launched an attack on the German positions in the ruined village of Courcelette. By 8am, they had secured their main objective of the Sugar Factory, a German strong hold, and were pushing on to Courcelette. Despite being hit by numerous counter-attacks, the Canadians managed to hold their new positions.

During the following weeks, the three divisions of the Canadian Corps launched attacks on a series of enemy trench lines. The ultimate objective was Regina Trench, but this position defied capture and although ground was taken, the position could not be firmly held.

The 4th Canadian Division was sent to relieve the Canadian Corps in mid-October. The weather had turning for the worse and the men experienced terrible conditions on the cold, wet and muddy battlefields of the Somme. Regina Trench was finally captured on 11 November, and a week later the fight continued for Desire Trench, in the rain and snow. This was the final attack of the Somme Campaign.

The Canadians lost more than 24,000 men during the Battle of the Somme but had proved their worth. Lloyd George wrote: "The Canadians played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked out as storm troops. For the remainder of the war they were brought along to head the assault in one great battle after another. Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst."
 

The Courcelette Canadian Memorial

Hidden from the road by tall trees, the Canadian Memorial at Courcelette stands at the centre of a circular memorial park in remembrance of the Canadians who fought in this area during the Battle of the Somme. On the block of granite which forms the memorial, the following inscription can be read, in English and in French: "THE CANADIAN CORPS BORE A VALIANT PART IN FORCING BACK THE GERMANS ON THESE SLOPES DURING THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME SEPT. 3RD - NOV. 18TH 1916"

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mémorial gueudecourt

 

The Battle of Transloy

The Newfoundland Regiment arrived from the Ypres Sector, where it had spent 10 weeks reforming and training following the opening battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916. Serving with the 88th Brigade, the battalion was temporarily attached to the 12th Division, which was holding Gueudecourt. The troops arrived at their positions, on the northern outskirts of the village, on 10th October 1916.

In the afternoon of the 12th, with the 1st Essex Battalion on their left, all four companies of the Newfoundland Regiment launched their attack. Within 25 minutes their initial objective of Hilt Trench, located on the German front line, had been captured. Advancing to their final objective, heavy machine-gun fire fell upon them, pushing them back to Hilt Trench. The 1st Essex’s were pushed right back to the outskirts of Gueudecourt, leaving the Newfoundlanders with an open flank. The battalion’s line had suddenly doubled, but the men fought hard to maintain their positions driving off a counter-attack and further assaults until relief arrived.

During the 55 hours since their arrival in the area, the Newfoundland Regiment had suffered 239 casualties, including 120 killed, but they were one of the few units that day to have captured and held on to their objectives.

The Gueudecourt Newfoundland Memorial

After the war, the Newfoundland Government erected five bronze caribous across the battlefields of France and Belgium in remembrance of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. One was placed upon the positions captured by the Newfoundlanders at Gueudecourt. It is located one kilometre north-east of Gueudecourt, just off the D574 road.

Useful information

  • Free access to the memorial all year round
  • Address: From Gueudecourt, follow the D11 (D74E) towards Beaulencourt for approximately 1 kilometre.
  • Email: information@vac-acc.gc.ca
  • www.vac-acc.gc.ca
  • Longitude 2.84091| Latitude 50.060679
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Mémorial canadien du Quesnel
On the 8 August 1918, the first day of the Battle of Amiens (8-11 August 1918) the Canadian Corps drove the German Army back by 13 kilometres in the vicinity of Le Quesnel.

In the spring of 1918, the German Empire launched a series of large-scale battles known collectively as the German Spring Offensive. This offensive began with Operation Michael, launched on 21 March 1918, which aimed to cut through the Somme, and eventually surround the British Army.

At first German tactics were very successful as their small groups of highly trained soldiers, preceded by an artillery barrage, surged forward leaving the following waves of infantry to mop up behind them. On the 5th April, however, just before Amiens and the vital railway junctions of the city, the Allies managed to bring a halt to their advance.

The Canadian Corps had not been involved in these offensives, and thus its strong, fresh, well-trained and well-organized troops were ready for the Allied counter-attack that was being planned.

The Battle of Amiens

The Battle of Amiens began in the early hours of the 8th August 1918. Along a 22.5 kilometre front, with the French manning the southern sector and the Canadians and Australians spear-heading the British attack, the aim of this battle was to destroy and demoralize the German Army, with the help of heavy artillery and tanks. Ludendorff himself called this day “the black day of the German Army". In addition to the high numbers of German casualties that were inflicted, and the capture of hundreds of guns, mortars and machine guns, the Canadians had gained 13 kilometres of ground, the Australians 11, the French 8 and the British, acting as flank-guard, had captured 3.

The Memorial

To the south of Le Quesnel, on the road between Amiens and Roye, the Le Quesnel Canadian Memorial pays homage to the Canadian Corps that fought in this area during the Battle of Amiens. Engraved into the block of Quebec granite that forms the memorial are the words, in English and in French:  

"THE CANADIAN CORPS ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND STRONG ON 8TH AUGUST 1918 ATTACKED BETWEEN HOURGES AND VILLERS-BRETONNEUX AND DROVE THE ENEMY EASTWARD FOR EIGHT MILES"

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The New Zealand National Memorial was erected on the original objective gained by the New Zealand Division during the first Battle of the Somme, and from which they launched the successful attack on Flers on the 15th September 1916.

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette

The Battle of the Somme began on the 1st July. By mid-September the battlefield had been torn apart by shelling and losses were accumulating at a terrible rate, and yet the frontline had barely moved. To try to end this stalemate, a large-scale breakthrough offensive was launched along the front from Thiepval to Combles using a new secret weapon - the tank would make its first appearance on a battlefield!

The New Zealand Division played a major part in the battle - its first major engagement on the Western Front. On the 14th September, the men took up position to the west of the village of Longueval, ready for the battle that would commence the next day at 6.20am. After a massive artillery barrage, they advanced rapidly through the smoke and mist, and by late afternoon had taken all of their objectives and helped capture the village of Flers. After consolidating their new positions, and repelling counter attacks, they were involved in two more attacks over the next few weeks before being relieved on the 4th October. Although relatively successful, German resistance had been strong and the muddy, pock-marked ground and worsening weather had greatly affected fighting conditions. Losses were considerably high with over 7,000 New Zealand men being made casualty in just three weeks of fighting. 

A National Memorial

Longueval became a special place of remembrance for New Zealanders after the war. A memorial, inscribed with the words, "In honour of the men of the New-Zealand - First Battle of the Somme 1916" was unveiled in October 1922 by Sir Francis Bell, leader of the Legislative Council in New Zealand. It stands on the original objective gained by the New Zealand Division during the first Battle of the Somme, and from which they launched the successful attack on Flers on the 15th September 1916.

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and Memorial

The Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and New Zealand Memorial to the Missing can be found close to the New Zealand National Memorial, on the road to Contalmaison. The cemetery contains 5,569 Commonwealth graves, 68% of which are unidentified. 125 New Zealand graves, recognisable by their silver fern insignia, are dotted throughout the cemetery.

Inside the cemetery, a memorial bears the names of the 1,205 New Zealander soldiers whose bodies were never found or identified after the battles of 1916. The cemetery is surrounded by fields and located to the west of Longueval, on the Allied positions of 1916. In 2004, the remains of an unknown New Zealand soldier were exhumed from this cemetery for reburial at the National War Memorial in Wellington, New Zealand. He is the New Zealand Unknown Soldier, representing all those men who came “from the uttermost ends of the earth” to fight in the First World War.
 

ANZAC Day - Mémorial néo-zélandais de Longueval
ANZAC DAY COMMEMORATIONS

ANZAC Day commemorations are held every year at the New Zealand Memorials in Longeuval. Please click here for more information about  Anzac Day 2017
 

 


Please visit the New Zealand Embassy website for more information about the New Zealand Division in the First World War.
Useful Information
Access to both sites is free, all year round.
The Caterpillar Valley Cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
 
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Mémorial néo-zélandais Longueval
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