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September 2002 - Morning Day Two

Day two started with a two hour coach journey from our overnight Hotel in the French village of Neuville en Ferrain to the Somme area.

Time to catch up on some sleep and then it was a whistle stop tour of some of the most famous areas of the Great War.

First stop was Serre and then the Sheffield Park Memorial to the Pals Battalions - which were battalions made up of friends or workmates or people from the same town or area. They joined up together and consequently died together. The Sheffield Park is their memorial.

Many joined through promises of a short war that would be over by Christmas. Others felt that by joining up they would be better off than living in the poverty back in Britain. At least in the army they would receive square meals, warm clothing and accommodation - or so they thought. The reality was more likely to be foot rot from standing in water filled trenches, a lack of food and sodden clothing.

On the left is a memorial plaque to the memory of the Barnsley Pals who were killed in action at the Battle of the Somme and on the right are the rolling hills of the Somme as they are today.

Next on the itinerary was the  Sucrerie where an execution post can still be seen. This was used to shoot deserters, often young men suffering shell shock who had deserted through no fault of their own.

Another highlight of the trip was the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park which is a beautifully preserved memorial to the Newfoundland troops who were quite literally massacred after going "over the top."  

The park was opened by Earl Haig on 7th June, 1925 and consists of 84 acres which today belong to the Canadian government.

Today it is a peaceful area where sheep graze. The original trenches have been preserved, although today they seem little more than furrows in the grassy landscape. The tell-tale signs are of a monument in the shape of a Caribou which was the emblem of the Newfoundland Regiment and the graves in the distance.

During one of the most dramatic days of the 1916 campaign, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment lost more than threequarters of its soldiers in less than half an hour!

Two scenes of Newfoundland Memorial Park - September 2002