February News - Somme Pilgrimages, Memorials, Teddies and More...

Posted on 28th February 2017 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

February News - Somme Pilgrimages, Memorials, Teddies and More...

February…changeable weather, first guests of the year, more stories to be told, more history to uncover, AWOL teddies… Some days it has felt like spring is nearly here and the daffodils in the front are about to burst into sunshine yellow, the next we have been battered by Doris and chilled by an east wind. One thing is for certain; life is never dull at No.fifty6.  

Personal Pilgrimages

This month 2 stories of our guests families stood out for us and the pilgrimages they have made. Gary James booked with us many months ago as he wanted to be here on a specific date – 17th February 2017.  Gary came with friends and his cousin Nick as their ancestor died on The Somme. They spent a couple of days touring the area and then Gary picks up the story about 17th February. “Friday 17th marked the 100th anniversary of the attack on Hill 130 and Miraumont when and where my ancestor Edwin was killed. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval.  We parked up outside the Adanac Cemetery and set off on foot at 5.45am, the time of the action 100 years ago, across the field alongside the East Miraumont Road to retrace the steps taken. I feel privileged and humbled to be able to do that. I think our walk was a lot darker than in 1917 with shells and Very pistols going off which according to one of the books lit up the sky like a Brock’s firework display. We had 3 torches which allowed us to only see the ground ahead of us. After cresting the summit we walked down towards Miraumont and then rejoined the road before turning right towards Pys. We stopped off at the Sanitats Mulde ravine from where the Germans launched a counter attack. It was still quite dark. We proceeded to Courcelette and then up the W Miraumont Road to get a perspective of the whole battlefield before heading to Regina Trench cemetery. Nick placed a cross alongside mine at the grave of the unknown British Officer, 2nd Lt who may be Edwin and we had some photos taken. I also visited some of his 23rd Btn comrades who were also killed on 17th Feb."

Gary was truly moved by his personal pilgrimage. It reminded us that The Battle of The Somme did not end in November 1916, soldiers continued to die in the winter of 1916/17 and they too will be remembered. 

Gary and Nick 17/2/17
Regina Trench Cemetery

 Also this month, we researched the Somme history of William Fry and Harry Ambrose, whose granddaughter Gilly came to visit, with her son.  David escorted the family as they retraced the footsteps of both Gilly’s grandfathers. By coincidence both men’s first world war ended on the same day - 15th September 1916. Harry Ambrose was a rifleman of the First Surrey Rifles and was badly wounded in the shoulder during the attack on The Starfish Line near High Wood. Harry survived, but it ended his war. William Fry was a Grenadier Guardsman. Also on 15th September he was involved in the attack on Les Boeufs from the direction of Ginchy. At some point that day, William lost his life, and has no known grave, he is commemorated on Thiepval. He left behind a widow and children.

Both men never knew each other but their family legacy lives on. Gilly and son Paul’s visit to the battlefields in winter mist truly moved them as they remembered their grandfathers/great grandfathers.

Australian War Animals Memorial Organisation (AWAMO)

Memorial locationArtist's Impression


We are pleased to report that we have been helping with a project organized by AWAMO to remember Animals of War on The Somme.

We are liaising with Nigel Allsop, President of the AWAMO based in Australia and Bernard Delattre, Mayor of Pozieres (Julie’s translation skills have been needed!).

On 21st July 2017 a new memorial area to Animals of War will be unveiled behind the site of the Windmill in Pozieres.

The memorial will take the form of a Bronze statue of a horse’s head, with details of other animals within the sculpture, a sculpture of a dog’s head, a memorial plaque, benches for moments of quiet reflection and a memorial garden of purple roses – purple being the colour of Animal Remembrance.

The groundworks will begin in April with a local stonemason involved. The sculptures, currently on their way to France, are by renowned animal artist Susan Bahary.

The inauguration on 21st July will be attended by VIPs from various nations as well as many animals (and their handlers) depicted in the memorial.

We will update you as this interesting project progresses. Further details on the AWAMO website: 


L’Ilot (Glory Hole)

On 4th February we attended the AGM of the Association of L’Ilot (The Glory Hole) here in La Boisselle. 2016 events were reviewed and plans for this year were discussed. The aim is to have as many open days as possible for the public to visit the site and ongoing works to stabilize the site to preserve it. Our local paper the Courier Picard picked up the story of Lucas, a 10-year-old boy in our village who is passionate about the history of the site. Claudie, the landowner, rewarded him at the AGM for his help over the year with a framed photograph and books on history.  In Lucas’s own words: “Before, I lived in Albert, in an apartment. Three years ago, I moved to La Boisselle. From the window of my room, on the 1st floor, I saw L’Ilot. I was curious to know what it was and I went by bike. I saw Claudie Llewellyn, the president of the association, with a group, so I followed the visit. Now whenever I can I visit the site and help Claudie and even help show visitors around.”

In these current times when young people are often vilified, it is good to know that young men like Lucas have a good heart and an interest in history.

Building Works continue

Internal work to the old stable has continued – we now have electricity and water installed, and even a flushing toilet and lights! and plastering has commenced. Slow but steady progress is being made.


Missing Teddies

At the end of February frequent guest at No.fifty6 Terry Whenham visited with his friend Jon – walking the battlefields in a complete mix of weather. In his past visits Terry has always travelled with his Teddies - Russ and Fudge. This time Julie was disappointed to see that the 2 intrepid teddies were missing from Terry’s bed (when she was on cleaning duties we hasten to add) – only to be told that they have been retired from travelling as they are getting too old and Fred Bear. Luckily, Terry’s wife back in England came to the rescue with a message delivered at breakfast time…

 Chicken Postscript

Apparently Valentines Day is the time that chickens shake off their winter blues and begin laying eggs again. For us our girls never stopped laying, just slowed down significantly, but we are yet to see the effects of St. Valentine with no increase in egg production yet… We may also be getting some new arrivals to live alongside our girls in the garden in March – as we MAY be taking in some other creatures – not feathered this time – so watch this space!









Comments (5)

Rodney Holmes says:

Always enjoy your updates. Always poignant & informative. Keep up the good work

sandy biback says:

Always enjoy the updates. You do good work

Gary James says:

Thanks for the inclusion in the latest newsletter. It was a great three days spent with you both. Roll on the next time.

Sally says:

Great news letter as always thanks. Good to catch up with all the news. Looking forward to seeing you and the ? New additions next month. Building looking good and Gabby looks great x

Jon Hill says:

Great to catch up your news and always poignant to read about those who fought in the Somme area during WW1.
Looking forward to our visit in July

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