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.
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.
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
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.
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