Our time in Amiens was based around visiting the battlefields of The Somme, especially those involving the Anzacs.
Fittingly, the day opened up gloomy and gray, and would remain that way all day.
Amiens on a Sunday is a ghost town, tumble weeds drifting down the road, not an open cafe in sight, except one sad looking offering which became our breakfast date!
Croissant and terrible coffee later we headed north to begin our day in the town of Villers-Bretonneux, home of the Australian National Memorial on the outskirts of town.
The Australian troops are revered in Villers-Bretonneux, halting the Germans advance on 25th April 1918, thus repatriating the village and stopping Germany’s March to Amiens.
So much are they held to the bosom of the town, the local primary school has a sign over the building “do not forget Australia”.
The sacrifices of the Anzacs between 1916-1918 on the Western front is commemorated at the memorial and cemetery in Villers-Bretonneux, and is a moving experience and an honour to visit.
11,000 Australians who died in France and have no known grave are commemorated on the memorial, as well as graves of Aussies, Canadians, Irish and English troops.
It’s a beautiful, quiet, respectful and dignified patch of the sweeping plains of the Somme.
Looking out over the landscape, a patchwork of sown wheat and barley, plus land to fallow, it’s hard to believe the blood spilt on it almost 100 years ago.
So much blood for so little gain!
We wandered around the smallish cemetery before climbing the central tower to get a sweeping view of all before us, and were greeted by the song cry of the bagpipes, courtesy of a visiting Scottish group.
Listening to the pipes at the top of the tower was marvellous, the piper upon finishing turned to us seemingly suitably humbled himself, stating “there’s a bucket list ticked off”.
Rachael wrote in the visitors book “thank you, lest we forget”…and we won’t.
We travelled up the road about 30kms to the town of Pozieres, a speck on the map, but home to another memorial to Australian’s significant influence on the Western Front.
The Battle of Pozières was a two-week struggle for the village of Pozieres and the ridge on which it stands, during the middle stages of 1916. Though British divisions were involved in most phases of the fighting, Pozières is primarily remembered as an Australian battle.
The Australian war correspondent, Charles Bean said of the fighting at Pozieres, this land “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.”
Sobering stuff which looking out over the landscape is hard to imagine.
We pressed on one kilometre down the road to a memorial on the side of the road commemorating the battle for Monquet Farm, now a meandering field, but back almost hundred years a bloody battle over 41 days.
In the area from Pozieres to Monquet Farm Australia suffered 23,000 casualties in those 41 days, our greatest military tragedy.
Onward we press just down the road to the British memorial at Thiepval, another tiny village completely overshadowed by the huge structure, sadly covered in scaffolding, the largest British War Memorial in the world.
A good visitor centre helped put the pieces together, as it’s hard to image in such lovely settings what went before.
Our last stop was just up the road at the Canadian memorial at Beaumont-Hamel, a wonderful tribute complete with a moose statue in bronze plus a network of trenches that have been remarkably preserved.
It was excellent, gave a real feel for the craziness of the trench systems, plus being a tranquil setting to honour the memories of those who sacrificed their lives so far from home for a cause probably lost on them.
We’ve been on the go since 10am with nothing to eat, so back to Amiens to make amends…except it’s Sunday and either they are not open, or they don’t do food!
We get a ‘rouge’ beer first up, we’ve seen these strange red beers before and finally got to try one.
Once will do! Too fruity!
Finally find a place that serves food, dive in and retire early.