New Year Dawning - Here's to 2021 from no.fifty6

Posted on 31st December 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

New Year Dawning - Here's to 2021 from no.fifty6

As the dawn of a New Year breaks, we would like to thank everyone who sent us cards and festive messages and we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s hope the world turns a corner (difficult for a globe) and vaccines enable us all to plan with some certainty and begin face to face human contact again. Boy, we know we have missed human togetherness!

We will be here and ready to see guests and friends when travel is again possible – you know there is nothing we love more than sharing The Somme with you.

We spent Christmas here just the 2 of us. We think it was the first time the two of us have been on our own at Christmas  - so we made the best of it. We even had turkey and trimmings and pulled crackers (David needs new jokes). A mystery gift-giver sent David an anonymous package with a large mug with a camera lens design on it. Someone who appreciates his photos?  Thank you whoever you are. 

Christmas on The Somme brings to mind this poem by Cyril Winterbotham. Cyril served on The Somme and died on 27 August 1916, serving with the 1st/5th Gloucesters. He was in action north of Ovillers toward Mouquet Farm when he died.   He has no known grave and is commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.  Born in Cheltenham he was educated at Cheltenham College and studied law at Oxford. For us, the poem shines a light on him sitting quietly reflecting, as devastation surrounded him.

Cyril Winterbotham

Not yet for us may Christmas bring
Good-will to men, and peace;
In our dark sky no angels sing,
Not yet the great release
For men, when war shall cease.

So must the guns our carols make,
Our gifts must bullets be,
For us no Christmas bells shall wake;
These ruined homes shall see
No Christmas revelry.

In hardened hearts we fain would greet
The Babe at Christmas born,
But lo, He comes with pierced feet,
Wearing a crown of thorn,-
His side a spear has torn.

For tired eyes are all too dim,
Our hearts too full of pain,
Our ears too deaf to hear the hymn
Which angels sing in vain,
"The Christ is born again."

O Jesus, pitiful, draw near,
That even we may see
The Little Child who knew not fear;
Thus would we picture Thee
Unmarred by agony.

O'er death and pain triumphant yet
Bid Thou Thy harpers play,
That we may hear them, and forget
Sorrow and all dismay,
And welcome Thee to stay
With us on Christmas Day.

December has turned much colder and wetter, but it hasn’t stopped us walking and exploring. There have even been beautiful blue-sky days and stunning sunrises and sunsets. The fields are either seeded with new growth appearing, or deeply ploughed. In the cemeteries we have noticed the first shoots of spring flowers breaking ground. We even saw the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn for several days when cloud allowed.

On our walks we filmed a couple of Facebook lives – one from Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and one from Thiepval, both in gorgeous afternoon light on different days.

Covid Update

The restriction to travel no more than 20 kms was lifted on 15 December and we can now travel to other regions of France if we want. However, there is a curfew between 8pm and 6am with a stay at home order (unless out for essential reasons with paperwork). Bars, restaurants and cafes remain closed until the next review which is 20 Jan. The border between UK and France is currently closed to travel into France.

The vaccination programme started in France on 27th December with the Pfizer vaccine. The very elderly and infirm and their carers the first priority.

Christmas Trees in the Streets of La Boisselle.

 Again, this year,  Christian Bernard, our Mayor, offered everyone in the village a real Christmas tree, as long as it was on the roadside and was decorated so that the village was illuminated for Christmas. Many families took part – including us - and they did look pretty. The Mayor will declare the best-dressed trees soon. Worth David collecting all the ribbon he could find for his tree project...


We have learned that Thiepval Memorial will be undergoing extensive renovation work from March 2021 through to 2022 (delayed from 2020 due to Covid). During this time the monument will be inaccessible to the public and there will be a new digital exhibition. Further details can be found on the CWGC website through the link here:

WFA Talk – Murphy’s Law

Our friend and author Andrew Rawson will be speaking at an online Western Front Association event on 25thJanuary.  Should be an interesting talk.

Murphy's Law states that 'anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.' This talk by Andrew will explore the difficulties experienced during the 1916 campaign through the series of tactical conundrums they encountered. Some problems were created by the Germans, some by Mother Nature and some by the British troops themselves.

The talk will also explain how different ideas were tried, with varying degrees of success, as they became ever more experienced in the art of attack.

Details here via the WFA Facebook page:

Zero Hour Z Day  - New Book

 We are pleased to pass on  details of the recently published book by historian Jonathan Porter following his extraordinarily comprehensive first volume.

Volume Two Zero Hour Z Day (XV Corps Mametz – Fricourt Spur) by Jonathan Porter

It is available (as is the first volume) via:


The Author writes:

Volume II studies, then analyses operations undertaken by XV Corps, comprising 7th, 21st and 17th Divisions.  Like the previous book detailing XIII Corps, focus is on the successful southern flank of the British Fourth Army attack.  Under the command of Lt. Gen. Henry Sinclair Horne, XV Corps achieved virtually total success on Z Day, finishing the job the following morning.  In so doing, they drove the Germans from Fricourt Spur, the lower slopes of Montauban Ridge and captured the bastion villages of Mametz and Fricourt, killing many of the enemy and capturing over 2,000 prisoners.  Their achievements were at the polar opposite of what British folklore would have us believe regarding the supposedly futile and blundering events of 1 July 1916.


  • 704 A4 pages (colour throughout)
  • 70 colour maps
  • 164 B&W photographs
  • 140 colour and B&W aerial photographs
  • 1,138 bios and images of the men
  • 95 sketches and plans
  • 42 colour photographs
  • 20 panoramic photographs
  • Available as A4 Hardback ISBN 978-0-9956911-2-4                                                         
  • Available as A4 Softcover ISBN 978-0-9956911-3-1     

All the reviews for the book are excellent.


We nearly got through the newsletter without mentioning Brexit, but we hope the following is useful when it is time to travel again.

With a Brexit deal in place new regulations start from 1 January.

This is advice taken from the British Embassy in Paris website.

On 31 December 2020, the Transition Period ends and traveling to France will change in several ways, beginning 00.01 on 1 January 2021.

What will change?

  • Passports. To travel to France, you will need a valid UK passport – valid means date of issue less than 10 years ago and with at least 6 months before expiry date on day of travel..
  • Just visiting? To visit/holiday in France, you will need a valid passport and be able to prove you have enough money for your stay. Hotel bookings can count as proof. Please read our Travel Advice for more details guidance:
  • Visas. If you want to stay in France for longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, you will need a visa. Full details can be found here:
  • Customs changes 1. You will no longer be able to take meat, milk or products containing them into France. There are some exceptions, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk and infant food. You can see the full set of regulations on the European Commission website:
  • Customs changes 2. There are also changes to the volume and value of goods that you can bring to France from the UK, covering items such as alcohol, tobacco, fuel and medicine. Please find full details here:
  • Pet travel. A current EU pet passport issued in Great Britain will not be valid for travel. To bring your pet to France, you will need an Animal Health Certificate, signed by your vet no more than 10 days before travel. On arrival in France, pet owners travelling with pets will need to enter through a designated traveller’s point of entry (PTE). Find full details here:
  • Data roaming. Surcharge-free data roaming will no longer be guaranteed. However, mobile operators including Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone have stated they have no current plans to change their mobile roaming policies and all operators must inform you when charges are about to go over a monthly threshold: You should contact your operator for more details.

What will not change?

  • UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in France until at least 31 December 2021.
  • You can visit France for up to 90 days in every 180 days without a visa. This includes for holidays and business trips.

On the point about proving sufficient resources for your stay, consider having our email confirmation of booking with you when you travel as proof of where you will be staying.

For us living and working in France, there are some changes, but we are on top of those, having been legally resident for 8 years.

We hope that is useful, but at the time you are due to travel, if you need advice, we will be happy to help.

Animal Postscript

The weather has turned much colder so the bird feeders are constantly in need of refilling. The hens Marge and Flo are happy pecking around – and since the 21st Dec (shortest day) we have started getting eggs again – they are so governed by daylight as if they know the days are again lengthening! Shere the cat eyes up our La Boisselle Christmas tree, all the ribbon David has put on it looks so tempting….

Flo helping with the compost

David’s cracker joke:

How did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus was 7lb 6oz when he was born?

They had a weigh in a manger.

All is well at no.fifty6.

Happy New Year

All that is left is for us to wish all our wonderful friends and guests past and future a happy, healthy, peaceful New Year. We look forward to reconnecting with old friends and new in 2021. Please stay safe. Stay healthy. Here’s to the future.


Comments (29)

Kay Ferguson says:

Happy New Year to you both, Julie and David! Another super newsletter; a beautiful poem and it was such a treat to watch your films of Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and Thiepval on New Year's Day afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to find all these names too. Surely this year will bring visitors back to you, and hope we will see you soon . Love Kay and Donald xx

Ian Smallwood says:

Hi Julie and David
Wishing you both a Happy and Healthy New Year.
As ever, the newsletter makes great reading and we look forward to them arriving.
Thanks for the Brexit update. Still early days yet, but hopefully the transition will go smoothly.
Now let's us all get sorted with the vaccine and get life back to normal !
Stay safe.
Ian and Jackie

Chris Prince says:

Well. I am a little in reading your newsletter and have wished you Happy New Year. But I just wanted to Thank you for keeping us all up to date on things, and how you are both going. Loved all the videos I got to see. Loved David Sunset that was beautiful just like being there. Glad all the animals are going well. So on that note Take care both of you stay safe and well. And fingers crossed 2021 is a far better Year for everyone, world wild. Best Wishes and a Big Thank You Chris & Bill xxxx

David Harvey says:

A very happy & healthy 2021 to you.
Thank you for Winterbotham’s poem, I hadn’t heard it before. I will use in the next Christmas church service.
Hope to see you before then

Trevor Bench says:

Happy new year to you both, let hope for a better year this year when we can get back to some normality.

Bev Craig says:

Happy New Year Julie and David.
The poem by Cyril Winterbotham was so moving. How sad he must have been when he wrote that poem. Brought tears to my eyes.
Stay safe. I would love to visit you again one day. Sending hugs xx

Billy mccann says:

Happy new year Julie and David glad you are both keeping well xx

Neil Mackenzie says:

Happy New Year to you both. Here is hoping we can make it back to No56 in 2021 - really missed not being able to do so last year.
Keep safe.

Ferris says:

Thanks once again for cheering us up, it means a lot.
Just in case David needs any more jokes I can lend him this one.
I’ve just started Origami - the advantages are two fold...
Sorry !

John Mepham says:

Thanks for the update !
Every day passed is one day closer to travel again ! Hang in there.
Here's to a much better '21 !!

Sandy Biback says:

A wish for a better 2021 to you both. Thank you again for these updates. Be well.

Roger and Elaine says:

Happy New Year! We can't wait to be back with you again. Roll on the vaccine! Take care and stay safe.

Gerry says:

Hello Julie and Avid:
Greetings from the Emerald Isle and wishing you both every Happiness and loads of Covid-19 resistant visitors (including myself) during 2021.
Thank you for another great bulletin always very informative and relevant..
Whatever about the impact of Brexit in other walks of life, I do hope your info. on Brexit regulations is only of passing interest to me with my Irish Passport.
Best wishes,

Gordon & Joana (and Mary) says:

We well remember the frustration of scaffolding over the memorial in Nov 2015 but, needs must. Info and gen most helpful - thanks. Did l mention next door’s hen ‘Dinosaur’ got taken by a fox and deposited in their Pampas grass? Who names a ‘laying’ hen Dinosaur? That’ll be T’bo, their 5-year old youngest son ... Best wishes for 2021, never far from our thoughts XX

Les Mepham says:

Wishing you both the best for 2021! Hope to see you again soon. ❤️

Graham Taylor says:

Look forward to your very interesting and informative newsletters. Happy New Year to you both and stay safe.

Graham & Kath

Jon Hill says:

Happy New year to you both and thanks for all your news throughout the year.
Brexit rules are nicely explained, but I hope my new Irish passport will circumvent these restrictions!

David Ellis says:

Thank you both for another lovely update from The Somme! Everything is crossed for the summer but I’m not holding my breath! Am hoping beyond hope that things return to normal in 2021 and that I can get back to visit. Very best wishes for a happy 2021!

Gary James says:

Happy New Year to you both. Thanks for the travel updates. Keep safe.

Alan Hancock says:

Happy New Year ...... and good riddance to 2020!

William & Elizabeth Stretton says:

Excellent newsletter as always. The one place where you give clear concise advise on the new entry regulations.Plus the superb photos of the Somme..We wish you both a prosperous New Year.
William and Elizabeth

Dave Eason says:

HNY and Good Luck to you both. I had to visit the GP last week. He asked me what was wrong and I told him " I always feel like I am a large supermarket rather than a human being" He then asked me "how long have you felt this way David? ", I said "since I was Liddle.".

Heather and Malcolm says:

Thanks for all your new news!
Here's to you both having a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2021, Julie and David.
Did you ever get to watch Sheba Films' 'Where The Poppies Grow'? What did you think of it?
Fingers and toes crossed for this year. All the best.

Frank Sumsion says:

Happy New Year to you both, as always a letter full of news and this time very helpful information loved the poem. You must spend hours working on your letter and it is much appreciated. Take good care and stay safe, look forward to seeing you in June.

Tim Corcoran says:

A weigh in a manger; I have to admit I laughed hard. Stay safe you two. All the best for NewYear and we will make every attempt to get back there. In the meantime, we will contemplate an orb turning a corner. Tim and Leisa

Michael Knight says:

Your newsletter is a great start to the year. It’s always full of interesting items. Happy New Year and stay safe

Ashley Atkinson says:

As always
Thanks for news and updates
Best wishes

Lucy Betteridge-Dyson says:

Happy New Year to you both. Hope to see you again this year at some point!


John Ross says:

Dear Julie and David
Happy New Year, I find the newsletter very interesting both the history and the family orientated news chickens laying etc. This months Brexit related practical news is great
Many thanks John Ross

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