The generally accepted via francigena path, the GR145, goes directly from B to P, but we deviated by heading south then east, which took in the killing fields of the Somme. In many ways words are not enough, so here are pictures of the cemeteries and memorials that we either visited or could see from our route. They represent a small portion of those in the area.
Standing at Lochnagar crater – the remnant of a massive explosion generated by tunnelling under the German trenches and filling the tunnels with hundreds of tons of explosives – one wonders what was the point. Thousands of men were ordered to walk, line abreast, across 600 metres of open muddy fields laced with barbed wire, in an attempt to gain a few hundred acres of mud. The generals, living in safe luxury in their chateaux far behind the front thought this was a viable plan – generals who still believed in the superiority of mounted cavalry with sabres rather than machine guns. There is a plaque at Lochnagar to the 300+ soldiers who were shot at dawn for cowardice and other “crimes”. In retrospect, it’s too bad a few generals didn’t meet this fate. It would have saved thousands of lives. Instead, Douglas Haig has a statue on Whitehall of him mounted on a charging horse. Further down Whitehall there is a simple stone monument to the “Glorious Dead”, remembering the thousands who were slaughtered due to military and political leadership that was often 30 years out of date. Not to mention that the war itself was a family squabble. The French army in the Battle of the Somme had more success (if 7,000 killed on the first day can be considered a success), but to the French, the Somme pales in comparison to the horrors of Verdun.
Daily km: 22 & 29