Happy Easter and March News from no.fifty6

Posted on 31st March 2018 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Happy Easter and March News from no.fifty6

Happy Easter everyone. Is it spring already? The clocks have gone forward an hour. It doesn’t feel like it weather-wise as apart from the odd glorious sunny day the weather continues changeable, mostly chilly and some heavy showers. Still there are signs of spring with blossom appearing and the daffodils in full bloom. This month there is a lot to report here – it has been a very busy month with lovely guests, The Spring Offensive, Building Work achievements and some more sad chicken news. Most of all though we wanted to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful Easter.

Personal Pilgrimages

Karsten Lund visited us for the second time from Denmark. The story of his grandfathers and their roles in the War is what got him interested in The Somme but this time not only did he follow in their footsteps, he has been researching The Danes who fought on The Somme and sadly did not make it back to their homeland. In the First World War, around 26,000 Danish-speaking German citizens from Northern Schleswig fought in the German army, because of Denmark’s defeat and the annexation of Schleswig-Holstein by Prussia in the Second War of Schleswig in 1864. As a result, a large group of Danes became German citizens, and were thus obliged to do military service in the German army. Their native tongue was Danish, their identity was Danish and they wrote letters home from the front in Danish. Karsten brought with him his grandfather’s papers . A quite extraordinary collection. Postcards home, his notebook, official documents and most extraordinary of all a piece of silver birch bark – fragile but enduring, which bore the inscription – a memory from The War. If only that bark could talk. We thank Karsten for sharing these with us, and for making us aware of the Danish deaths, many of whom are interred in German Military Cemeteries such as our nearby Fricourt.

A silver birch bark momentoKarsten's Grandfather

The 1918 Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser's Battle), was a series of German attacks along the Western Front, beginning with Operation Michael on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914. The Germans had realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming human and materiel resources of the United States could be fully deployed later in 1918. They also had the temporary advantage in numbers afforded by the nearly 50 divisions freed from the Eastern Front by the Russian surrender. This was a war completely different on The Somme in 1918 to what occurred in 1916. Faster moving, more tanks used, different tactics, a mobile war.  There were heavy losses. The Allies lost nearly 255,000 men, 1,300 artillery pieces and 200 tanks. Yet there has been little in the media about this important phase of the War.  

Many of our guests in March made their pilgrimages to remember their family’s fallen from the Spring Offensive. The missing of the British 5th Army are commemorated on the walls of the Pozieres Memorial. It was here where we chose to commemorate the fallen on 21st March 2018. Guest Dave Eason asked if we would remember his Great Uncle, a machine gunner who died on the first day of the battle. So for us Arthur Eason represented all those who died and we held a short ceremony of remembrance as the sun set on that day which was attended by and involved our guests too. We posted a live video of the short act of remembrance on our Facepook page. 


Lindsay and Fiona from Nottingham came to remember their ancestors who fought and died on The Somme, 2 came home injured, some survived intact physically, among them, one remembered on Thiepval, a Salford Pal who died 1st July 1916 and  Thomas Lang a Preston Pal who died near Bazentin and is buried in Flat Iron Copse Cemetery. David was able to show the place where Thomas was originally buried on the edge of Bazentin Wood, before being re-interred in Flat Iron after the war.

On 25th March Cathy from the north of England came to remember her ancestor Samuel Crossley who is remembered at Pozieres. Our research revealed that Samuel, a Sapper with the Royal Engineers was involved with the efforts to prevent the Germans crossing the Somme River at Peronne and as the Germans eventually made it across the river at Biachies/La Chapelette, Samuel somehow lost his life. David and Cathy visited the Somme crossing where he saw action, and Pozieres Memorial too.

Others were remembered at Gauche Wood, The Ham River Crossing, Epehy, Albert and Authuille. The list goes on.

The heroic feats, derring-do attitude and compulsion to do what was right by men of all sides should not be forgotten. We will remember them.

On 26th March 1918 an historic conference was held at Doullens. The purpose was to better coordinate the British and French military operations, and it resulted in the appointment of General Foch to commander-in-chief or supreme commander of Allied Forces. This unified command would be vital to the Allies victory. Therefore, the Doullens Conference can be viewed as having momentous importance to the outcome of the War.

The town of Albert, so long a beacon of resistance on The Somme, was relinquished during the night of 26/27 March 1918.

With the choice of holding the old position on the heights east of Albert, on the left bank of the Ancre, or the high ground west of the devastated town, it had been decided to adopt the latter course. The ruins of Albert were therefore tactically abandoned to the Germans.

The town was then occupied by German troops who looted whatever they could find, including the wine stores…

We are pleased friend and author Andrew Rawson’s new book The Somme Offensive March 1918, is out now and published by Pen and Sword. In January during Andrew's visit to us,  we visited together many of the places Andrew writes about in his book.  It is a must read for those who wish to know more about The Spring Offensive on The Somme.

1918 Centenary Commemorations in April

This final decisive year of the War continues to be commemorated here on the Somme.

While April will be dominated by Australian Remembrance here are some of the forthcoming commemorations:

7 April at Dernancourt  - Commemorations to mark the battle of Dernancourt will be held at 15.00 including inauguration of the newly painted mural on the railway bridge.

21st-28th April – at Albert video images of the destruction of The Basilique will be played on its walls in an evening spectacular each evening at 9.00pm.

21 April 2018 – Commemorations at Fricourt for the centenary of the death of Manfred von Richtofen, The Red Baron.

22 April – Australian themed ramble with tableaux at Pozieres

25th April – Dawn Anzac Day Service at Villers Bretonneux and inauguration of the new Sir John Monash Centre (both ticket only events)

Cambrai Tank Museum which contains Tank Deborah D51 at Flesquieres has now opened. Currently the museum is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons only from 1.30-5.30pm and entrance is €6. 

Building Works

Drum roll please….

Our new 5th bedroom is finished and has been receiving guests in March. On the ground floor overlooking the back garden this room is available for everyone but is also great for those who cannot manage the stairs. The room as always, mirrors our eclectic tastes and is a small homage to Ayrton Senna, in David’s opinion the best Formula 1 driver of all time, who was also a great humanitarian. So it is the Ayrton Senna Room.  New beds, new shower room, a complete refurbishment. We just need a moment to get the room and photos listed on our website.


And a second big drum roll….

Our conservatory/verandah is now finished! Great work by Greg our builder (and ourselves) in March to get the area ready. Even guest Tim Brown helped us with the assembly of new furniture (he loves a bit of flat pack).  We think it is a fantastic new space and we are already serving breakfast, refreshments and dinner in this new area. Guests Jane & Chris Roberts and Terry Whenham, Dave and Steve were our guinea pigs to try it out and the feedback has been very positive. It gives so much more space for guests to relax and a dining room which we hope loses none of the magic of our old dining room and will see many new memories created. Terry Sponder, regular guest who is staying with us this Easter weekend is blown away by it. "It looks 300% better than it did in the photos in your newsletter as it was being built. It is so lovely. I am impressed," he enthused.

Thank you all for your patience as the work has been done.

Inaugural dinner

We can’t tell you how pleased we are to have achieved our vision. However, we do not rest on our laurels and Greg is still with us, creating a terrace outside the verandah so we will have a summer area too.

We also have to give a mention about slippers. We notice more and more of our guests bring their slippers with them to wear in the house. We love this, as it is an indication everyone feels at home. However, guest Chris Roberts is clearly the slipper master. We had a week of shark feet which made us smile. We are happy whatever you wear on your feet – but sharks!

Animal Postscript

We are very sad here as this month we lost 2 of our gorgeous chicken girls who are now old in chicken terms. First Gabby our beautiful black girl was slowing down, day by day and at the beginning of March, she decided enough was enough and while David held her in his arms she decided it was her time to go. Then just on Friday this week, little Rita the red (grape eating specialist) decided it too was her time to fly over the rainbow bridge. No trauma, she just decided to not wake up Good Friday morning while nestled in the warmth of the coop. We will miss them both. Now we have our 2 original white girls left, Suzanna and Brigitte who think it odd that they were once 6 and now just 2. Losing animals is always hard, but we comfort ourselves that they have a good life here at no.fifty6.

The Easter bunnies are fine. They wish everyone a Happy Easter too.


Comments (18)

Jane & Chris Roberts says:

Had a fabulous stay yet again. The shark slippers made it safely back across the North Sea. Hope to return in 2019.

Terry Sponder says:

As always Terry and the gang thoroughly enjoyed their stay over Easter, all commented how wonderful the building works looked now finished. They are now counting down to next year.

Rebecca says:

Wow! Looking amazing! Congratulations! So sorry about the loss of your lovely girls ;-(

Sally Burge says:

Oh so sorry about Rita she was lovely. The new room looks wonderful Chris and I both thought there would be a Senna theme!! New dining room looks great as well - really looking forward to June. Have a great Easter xxx

Gary James says:

Another great newsletter. Like the idea of the Ayrton Senna room. Greg has done a great job on the conservatory. Hope to see you both in July with the car.

Pauline Symmons says:

Congratulations on the completion of the new bedroom and dining room - looks fantastic! Sad news about the chickens, are you planning on getting any more? Hope you've had a lovely Easter weekend x

Catherine Fairbairn says:

Another great newsletter, the new dining room looks fantastic. Mark & I look forward to one day getting back to The Somme and Number56 in particular.

Lindsay Robinson says:

We had an amazing visit to the Somme - thank you so much to David and Julie for helping to bring alive a remarkable story of service to their county by very poor factory workers which was completely unknown on 11 months ago!

Gordon Sinclair says:

We're still researching my wife’s grand father (Fricourt Nov 1915) but we had no idea about the Danish Germans - plenty more reading to do ..! As for F1 drivers, Mike Hawthorn used to play with me in the early 50s, and there have been a few in the intervening period who were ‘of their time’. See you soon ...

Paula Hockey says:

Always good to get your newleter. Updates me, informs me and makes me remember just how important the Somme is and its stories. Hope to stay with you again soon x

The Devon Boys says:

The new bedroom and conservatory looking good, and you must be please the the period of alterations is now complete. Looking forward to our July visit, and we try to remember the slippers.

sandy biback says:

Oh, I can't believe the changes since Stephen & I were there. And our time was perfect-and yet-you two have made your place more perfect. Someday-we will be back. Love keeping up with the two of you

Rob Kirk says:

Superb, as usual. Looking forward to being with you in May.

Mike and Kath, Bath, UK. says:

Congratulations to you two! So pleased that your 5th bedroom and new dining area are both 'up and running'. The other side of the coin . . . sad news regarding Gabby and Rita, fond memories this end of relaxing in your garden hand-feeding lovingly-sliced grapes to Rita. Yes, their lives were blessed at 56. M&K.

Brian Janman says:

The new dinning room looks great, as does the Senna Room. See you both son.

Karsten Lund says:

Thank you so much guys.
Looking forward to the trip in September :-)

Michael Rennie says:

Looking forward to our July trip. Happy to pick up some liquid supplies as we call by the Calais Wine Superstore on our way, a trip that will take in lunch at Agincourt...Azincourt. Let us know and we will oblige.

Plenty planned for our three days on the Somme.

Jane Maher says:

The new changes look brilliant! Adrian and I look forward to a return journey to try them out.
Have a good Easter you two. X

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