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September 2002 - Afternoon Day Two

As our whistle-stop tour approached its end, more and more we realised just how few of the Great War sites we had visited.

The extent of the war is quite mind-boggling - so many parts of the world touched and blighted. In two days we could only stretch the surface of the horrors that existed.

After a packed lunch at Newfoundland Memorial Park, it was on to Ulster Tower - a reproduction of a tower in Ireland. It is an ornate memorial to the fallen and is pictured below.

There were still two major sites to see. The first was an amazing crater in the earth at Lochnager. Today there is a poppy strewn memorial and it is still unknown how many bodies still lie underneath the ground there.

The crater is an astonishing 90ft deep and 300ft across. Over 50,000 lbs of amonal blew the hole at precisely 7.28 a.m on July 1st, 1916. Today the site at La Boiselle is privately owned.

In 1998 the body of Private George Nugent of the Tynesdie Scottish Regiment was uncovered there. He was buried with full military honours in July 2000.

On the left is the Ulster Memorial and on the right poppies at the crater

Our final destination was the Thiepval Memorial  where a wreath was laid by the Rotary Club in memory of the dead. Like the Menin Gate, Thiepval contained the names of thousand upon thousand of those missing. Each wall is divided into a separate battalion, at times it is beyond the mind's comprehension with a total of 73,357 names.

On its own the memorial is of tremendous architectural interest, add to it the significance that it takes on and it really is a magical place.

It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and was opened on 31st July, 1932 by the Prince of Wales. It is the largest British war memorial in the world and stands 150ft high. At the back is a burial ground for French and British troops. The memorial took four years to build.

Lutyens is probably best known for designing the Cenotaph in London in 1919. He was born in London on 29th March, 1869, the 11th child of a soldier turned painter. He was a delicate boy who suffered illness. In 1885 he enrolled in the Royal College of Art to study architecture and he soon excelled.

Lutyens also designed the art gallery in Johannesburg, the British Embassy in Washington, buildings at both Oxford and Cambridge universities and the Irish National War Memorial in Dublin.

He was knighted on New Years Day 1918 and died on New Year's Day 1944 at the age of 73.

It was all summed up by our excellent guide Mick Mizen at the end of the tour. "Now let's do something they couldn't do, let's go home."

So ended our brief tour. It made me realise just how little I know about the First World War, but, more importantly has given me a thirst to find more out.

Left is the Lochnager Crater and on the right is the wreath laying at Thiepval. Below is the Thiepval Memorial silhouetted against the bright Autumnal sunshine.

Peter Steward 2002