Beaumont-Hamel & Thiepval

I had visited several cemeteries and battle grounds and reflected on what I had seen. It was disturbing and unsettling, but nothing quite prepared me for the atmosphere of Beaumont-Hamel, where I shivered and felt heavy as I walked into the trees around the memorial to the Newfoundlanders, the Caribou Memorial. The atmosphere is tangible and it is not peaceful. Even as I remember now, far away from the place, I feel goosebumps.

The memorials and graveyards remember Newfoundlanders (somewhat ironic in these circumstances) and Commonwealth soldiers – the Germans who had been killed were buried in fewer, larger cemeteries, rather than where they had fallen. The 51st (Highland) Division have a striking memorial and many are buried in the nearby Hunter’s Cemetery, a bomb crater, and probably named after the Chaplain of the Black Watch, Rev Hunter.

The caribou memorial at Beaumont-Hamel

The caribou memorial at Beaumont-Hamel

The remains of the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel

The remains of the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel

Y Ravine cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel

Y Ravine cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel

The 51st (Highland) Division Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel

The 51st (Highland) Division Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel

HUnter's Cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel

Hunter’s Cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel, with the Memorial to the 51st Division in the background.

Within view is Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery and crater, and close by is Beaumont Cemetery – death seemed to be endless, with cemeteries marking the lines of fighting over the years.

Hawthorn Ridge Crater

Hawthorn Ridge Crater

Hawthorn Ridge Crater Cemetery

Hawthorn Ridge Crater Cemetery

Beaumont Cemetery

Beaumont Cemetery

Thiepval Memorial is the memorial to the dead who could not be found, or identified – 72,000 British and South African men who died mainly during the Somme Battle of 1916. Below the Memorial is a cemetery with equal numbers of French and British soldiers

The Thiepval Memorial

The Thiepval Memorial

The Thiepval British and French Cemetery

The Thiepval British and French Cemetery

The French side of the Cemetery at Thiepval

The French side of the Cemetery at Thiepval

The British cemetery at Thiepval

The British cemetery at Thiepval

In this cemetery the dead lie in a garden.

These sites left me with a tremendous sense of loss, sadness, and waste, and then, after the ‘war to end all war’, we did it all over again 21 years later.