A Travellerspoint blog

July 2015

Somme Weekend

With the Meldrews

Day 1

An early start on Saturday. I had old friend Ken Fulton staying over. My plan was to be up about 5.30am, leave at 6am to arrive Dover at 6.30am. Except Ken was up earlier and we left and arrived at Dover way before 6am.

I messaged Cal to say we were going through immigration and check-in.

We were first in the line. It took so long at Costa to get a coffee that the others had arrived and we were almost ready to load. Bugger.

The crossing was pretty straightforward and after breakfast we were disgorged into dull weather Calais.

The plan was to head down the A26 to Arras and then cut across to the first stop at the Accrington Pals Memorial.

First delay was that the autoroute ticket machine played up and some of us got tickets and others had to wait to get one.

At the pay station near Arras, the lucky ones from the ticket collection found their tickets were not recognised!!! More holdups. Then we got split up twice! The eight bikes became four and then two.

Luckily, of the eight bikes five had satnav!

Ken and I waited for a while by the massive Poste sorting office for Department 62, and when no one showed up we set off to the first stop. The route was the same as last year!

We aborted the Pals as the track off the road was terrible. Certainly not for the R3 or Ken's SV1000.

We went into the next stop at "Ocean Villas". (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/museum-ocean-villas-auchonvillers.htm)

In the traditional Tommy anglicisation of French place names, Auchonvillers became Ocean Villas.

It was so warm we had both had two iced teas before the rest arrived, having also aborted the Pals visit. My texts had also arrived.

Most of the group decided to have lunch before we headed off to the main visit of the day to the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel. (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/memorial-newfoundland-park.htm)

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From here we headed to the Ulster Memorial Tower, and then the Tank Corps Memorial at Pozières.

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(http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/memorial-tank-corps.htm)

Across the road is the "Windmill". The site of the most costly Australian action in WW1, surpassing Gallipoli. (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/memorial-pozieres-mill.htm)

It was finally captured on August 4th 1916. Just 60 yards up the road is a sign showing how far the allies had got by September 1st 1916.

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27 days to advance 60 bloody yards.

From here we headed to the hotel in Amiens via a petrol stop in Albert. The hotel was the Central Anzac.

After check-in we went to our rooms. After a shower I was feeling a bit tired and had a sleep. By the time I woke up my friends had gone to the Irish pub. I got Cal's SMS on Sunday morning.

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We had a walk around before finding the river and a restaurant that would seat all eight of us.

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To get a full group photo David called over a young attractive blonde passer-by. And a good job she did.

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After dinner we headed back to the Irish pub.

The lightweights (me included) went to bed and others went to the pub.

Day One ends.

Day 2.

After the long day the day before I was feeling a little tired and after the early night,aided by two pints of Monaco at the restaurant, I slept most of the night. I set my alarm on my phone for 0800. By the time I had showered and got changed I got to breakfast to find all my travel mates already there.

We had a good chat over breakfast and by the time we were ready to leave it was easily 0945.

The first stop was to be the site where the Red Baron was shot down. Somehow we had missed it last year. It would be easy to miss as it is simply a small notice board at the side of the road.

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The next stop was only a few miles along the road. Grove Town Cemetery where David wanted to look up one of his relatives buried there. Although from Google Maps the cemetery looks to be in the middle of farmland, what it didn't show was the rough track to get there. Unlike the Pals, we couldn't miss this one. At least Neil got to take his new Honda Cross Tourer "off road"!!

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From Grove Town, we retraced our steps back along the bumpy track, across the little "bridge" between the two huge puddles back to the main road.

We turned left and in just four miles we arrived at the Froissy Dompierre Light Railway, one of the last sections of trench railway left.

Although we found it easily enough, in fact right to the door, we were about 3 hours early. When I looked on the website I hadn't noticed that it opens only at 1330! So I took a couple of pictures to show we had been and we set off for Peronne and the Historial.

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The ride to Peronne was past a lot of war grave cemeteries, some small but far too many large with the white stones of the British and the white crosses of the French bright in the sun.

Once again, TomTom took us right to the door and we stopped in the parking directly opposite to the old castle that houses the museum and historical.

I have been before, but the displays evolve and so it was worth going in again. But first. A drink before we went on/. Cal booked us a table for 8 for lunch for our return.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

Historial at Peronne.

More reading: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/museum-historial-peronne.htm

Some of the displays give an idea of the casualties and the effects of the Battle of the Somme and also the statistics of each of the belligerents and the Russian Army on the Eastern Front. It came as a surprise to me that Germany, France and Russia had standing armies numbering 4 to 5 million men at arms. The UK had 380000 full timers at the outbreak of war in 1914.

Once finished we headed back for lunch. The railway being closed had saved us about an hour and so we had a more leisurely lunch. I had a salad!

Time to saddle up and head for the last stop and to say goodbye to Lainy and Ken Sole, who were heading east to Luxembourg or somewhere!

The Souvenir Francais at Rancourt is a large French cemetery and attached chapel. The chapel has a small museum inside.

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

Souvenir Francais at Rancourt

We were still about an hour ahead of schedule and once we had made our goodbyes to Lainy and Ken, we set off for the A1 and A26 back to Calais. Here as with the way out it went a bit tits up.

Now with six bikes in the group we arrived at the toll plaza to take a ticket. It seemed we were all through and I led onto the A1 north. Ken Fulton and David needed petrol before their smaller tanked Suzukis would make it to Calais and so I planned to stop at one of the service areas to the north of Arras; the second after we joined the A26.

We sailed past Arras and Vimy Ridge and the large Canadian monument to the right when Ian came alongside making some strange gestures that I took to mean we had lost two bikes. I decided to make the fuel stop and wait there.

He shot off ahead and I led Ken and David to the fuel stop. All three of us filled up. With the exchange rate, a litre of French 95 unleaded worked out at just over £1.05, some 10% cheaper than at home. So why not fill up too? ;)

There was no sign of Ian and we waited and waited and heard rather than saw bikes go past on the autoroute, By the time we exited the petrol/gas station and got on the A26 we had lost sight (and sound!) of the bikes. We plugged along at 70-75mph until the toll near St Omer. As I approached the manned toll booth to pay, I saw Cal and Neil the other side putting their gloves on. I tooted the piss poor Rocket horn and they pulled away. By the time Ken and David were through we had to follow on behind. Eventually catching them up on the spur motorway to the Port of Calais.

We were early still and were loaded onto a boat an hour earlier than we had booked. Only to find Ian's BMW already tied down and no sign of him!

We eventually met up again in the self-service where David, Ken and I decided to stay as we had a seat and places to put the pile of jackets and helmets. The others went off to find other seating.

In the end it was another good trip. I think everyone enjoyed it and we are already looking at going again next year for the 100th Anniversary commemorations.

Posted by InvictaMoto 06:56 Archived in France Comments (0)