Anzac Day and the journey to Villers Brettoneux.The Western Front. It is very hard to describe. Walking it, as I did, made it easier for me to imagine the life that the soldiers would have led. I was feeling cold, but the cold they had to put up with was nothing like what I was dealing with, and I had the luxury of a warm dry bed each night, and dry clothes to put on the next day.
Even with the discomfort of the icy wind constantly battering me the scenes I confronted were peaceful, rural scenes. The sounds I heard were those of birds, and distant bells chiming from the belfroi and church towers. Many of the roads were silent, some I walked on without one car passing me in that time and I could walk along lost in my own thoughts. Those fighting on the Front though would have been subjected to a constant barrage of sound, always on guard, and constantly uncomfortable.
I walked beside peaceful fields which, almost a hundred years ago, would have been a sea of mud. I walked past, and through, woods which are peaceful and teeming with little creatures, but were treeless back then. At the sight of the South African Monument in Delville Wood there is an enclosure around the "last tree" left standing after the fierce battles that went on there. Now, it is a place of great peace and serenity.
The last tree - at the South African Memorial, Delville Wood.
The cemetery at Dernancourt.
Flowers placed at Dernancourt - the yellow ones say "Autralie de Sud"
Of course the Dawn Service was very moving. To be there finally, in the bitter cold, and to watch a glimmer of a pink sunrise behind the memorial was special - it was also nice to sit and listen without having any responsibilies for a change. I managed to get a seat very near the front and so could clearly see averything going on.
The Cross of Sacrifce, with the Memorial tower behind at the dawn service.
Just to prove I was there!