Autumn is Here – October News from No.fifty6

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

Autumn is Here – October News from No.fifty6

October – The first 3 weeks of October saw glorious Autumn weather with warm days and blue skies. Now, there is a definite chill in the air. Still mainly dry but we have had our first frost and the wild birds are busy at the bird feeders. As always, there has been plenty going on here -  our guests have continued to bring their stories and make their individual pilgrimages in this extraordinary area. We have won awards, we prepare for Armistice and we even drank unique Dutch liquor!

Approaching Armistice

The War 100 years ago was entering it’s final phase but October remained bloody and there were many more casualties before the 11th November Armistice. Cemeteries dotted about our region bear many graves from these last months of 1918.  There was fighting around St Quentin, Cambrai and The Battle of the Selle took place as the Allies continued the advance recapturing French villages one by one as the German forces retreated to the north-east.

On 8 October we helped at Lochnagar Crater as Mark from the BBC recorded sounds at The Crater which will be used in a special broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Armistice Day. Mark has been capturing sounds from battlefields around the world which are now silent or empty, decades or centuries after fighting stopped. These “sonic memorials” will be broadcast as 3 minute sections between regular programming on 11th November. We listened back to the sounds Mark captured at the bottom of the Crater and there was plenty to listen to! The sound quality is amazing.


On November 11th services will be held in all villages in this area of Northern France and church bells will ring at 11am. There will be services at Thiepval, Ulster Tower, Newfoundland Park and the Lochnagar Crater. At the time of writing we are not aware of any special restrictions or road closures. Our village commemorations will commence at Ovillers French War Memorial at 10.00am, then La Boisselle War Memorial follows and the The Lochnagar Crater Service will commence at 10.45am. 

We were lucky enough to have seen a preview of Peter Jackson's film "They Shall Not Grow Old." We understand this will be shown in the UK on BBC2 on 11th November at 9.30pm.  It is outstanding. Pease watch if you can.  No longer voiceless Tommies, these are real man  each with a story to tell...



Colin Tickner a guest with an amazing artistic ability wrote to us this month:

Hi David & Julie,

 Annie made it happen that I have a wall at work to paint a mural on to 'The Fallen' I have attached a photo of my work. If you are looking to share it on your website or share with guests or customers we would be grateful!. This is our way of showing that the tragedy of war will not be forgotten. It's 30 feet long and 7 feet high,and took me about 70 hours to paint! located in a Victorian walled garden, it contains the names of local men from Crawley in Sussex, 119 men each named on the roll of honour, and a poppy for each of the fallen is fixed on the frame below the main picture.

 Time is nearly on us for the WW1 Centenary Commemoration, at work Annie and I have been working hard in order that all our customers at The Walled Garden Cafe Bar in Crawley, Sussex remember the fallen. We thought you might like a preview of the finished picture.

 See you in the Spring, good luck with your own commemorations,

Best regards

Colin & Annie


Whatever you do this November 11th we hope you have a great personal experience and have time to reflect on remembrance and peace. 

Personal Pilgrimages 

Gerrit Nijenhuis visited from Friesland, Netherlands with his family. Gerrit had first visited us 2 years ago with his son, as both are keen to learn more of the history here. This return visit saw them reflect on what they saw. Gerrit was left with an over-riding impression that it is the landscape here, now beautiful but with the visible scars of war asking you to find out more, that is the lasting legacy. He said we should write on our wall “It happened here”. It is all around us. We think that sums it up well. 

Richard and Jill Power came from the Isle of Man for a first visit and were humbled by the scale and of events here on The Somme. A keen photographer, Richard tried to capture the landscape and the things he saw. That is his lasting legacy.

Chris Price brought with him his 2 brothers, their wives, and his mother and father for a family pilgrimage. The male Prices had just completed the ABF Soldiers’ Charity Front Line Walk  - over 100kms of the Western Front - before they came to us a little stiff but triumphant. Chris is passionate about the Soldiers' experience and sharing the stories of what happened here.

Sarah, Mark, Charlie and George Franklin made their 3rd family visit to remember their Great Uncles who died and have no known grave. Oscar Franklin is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial and the family made their pilgrimage to Thiepval laying a wreath in honour. Oscar’s brothers Vivian and Sydney are commemorated on The Menin Gate. The Franklins have left a wreath for us to lay on 11th November for Oscar, Vivian and Sidney as they will be attending the Bexley Commemoration where the men are shown on the Town War Memorial.  Charlie and George are 10 and 12 respectively and Sarah says it is important that the boys learn about their family heritage and what sacrifices were made so that we can enjoy our life and freedoms today.

The Laws family made their second visit to us this half term holiday having first come in 2016. Three generations of the Laws family including granddad Walter, mum Jacklyn and 10 year old Thomas came to pay respects to Joseph Fenwick who died on 1stJuly 1916 in the Tyneside Scottish attack on La Boisselle. Joseph, Walter’s grandfather, is buried in Ovillers Cemetery. 3 generations stood at Joseph’s grave and gave thanks for his life and sacrifice. Each day of their visit the family would walk to the Cemetery to pay their respects. 

 All of these are extraordinary stories of courage, loss, remembrance and sacrifice. It is one of the reasons The First world War is so relevant today, touching so many families as it did.  Enriching our lives as we share with the families their special tributes to the fallen and remembrance of those who returned, changed forever.

Shrouds of The Somme

We caught up with the Lost Lives – Shrouds of The Somme Temporary Exhibition at Thiepval this month. An exhibit of 1,561 Shrouds, each with a cross marking the number of Commonwealth deaths on every day of the War has been laid out on the grass at Thiepval Memorial.  

This visual interpretation of casualty numbers was thought provoking.

Lost Lives will be on display at Thiepval until 5 November when the Shrouds will be moved to form part of a bigger installation at Queen Elizabeth Park in London. One shroud for each man remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. The installation at Queen Elizabeth Park runs from 8th-18thNovember.



We were pleased and proud to receive notification this month that no.fifty6 has entered the Tripadvisor Hall of Fame which recognises 5 years of continuous excellence as written by our guests’ reviews. We have received certificates which will be placed on the wall. So thank you to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to write reviews. It means a lot to know what we do is appreciated. We want our guests to relax knowing they can get the most out of their visit while they stay here. We see ourselves as facilitators not B&B owners. Our guests mean everything – so thank you.

Thank you, Merci, Hartelijk Bedankt

Our generous guests always humble us. Gerrit came armed with a bottle of local Friesland liqueur wrapped in the Friesland flag – called  Beerenburg it certainly packed a Dutch punch as we toasted the fallen with it! 

Chris Prince sent us 2 home-made poppy aprons all the way from Australia – which will be proudly worn around the kitchen (David says he will wear something under it, don’t worry!)

But personal kindnesses too, little notes, emails, flowers, a hug, special conversations shared. These all mean so much to us. Our guests are extraordinary, thank you for finding your way to our door.

Animal Postscript

Marcel, a regular Dutch guest came out of the shower in The Senna Room to find Harriet watching him via the bathroom window. Shameless our girls! 

The nights may be drawing in but the animals are well looked after and provide many a smile here at No.fifty6. 

 All is well at no.fifty6. 



Comments (16)

David, Jude & Ben says:

We don't know how you two fit it all're both amazing! Thank you for a wonderful trip.
It was good to be back, to introduce Ben to The Somme and for the 3 of us to share the 100 year anniversary of my maternal Grandma's first husbands death and to reflect a little more on the experiences of my Great Uncle who survived the war.

Jon Hill says:

Well done on the receipt of your award. Very well deserved. Thanks again for the regular updates on the wonderful work that you do.

Gerrit Nijenhuis says:

Dear Julie and David, many thanks for another wonderful visit to this extraordinary part of History!
My wife Bregje and the boys Geerten and Jacob Jan were also impressed.
Yes, It Happened Here! You can feel it all around you.
But the warm company and outstanding hospitality of Julie and David made our visit to the Somme very special!
We will certainly come back!

Gary J Jones (Gaz) says:

Hi Julie/David,
I look forward to your news letters and always find them so interesting. I can only echo everyone remarks when staying at your place. Fantastic home from home experience and friends for life. I also second Spanners Polish the plaque as we will be back to inspect it. Much love from us all (DLOY veteran troop) xxxx

Len & Julienne Chaganis says:

Well done and well deserved... it was great to see you both recently how about that trip down south to Bordeaux ?

Mike & Marg Tull says:

G'day Julie and David
Congratulations on the award
Memories of our visit still vivid
We hope to see you both sometime in the future
Cheers 4 now
Mike & Marg Tull

Wes Read says:

Congratulations on your Award David and Julie, as always a lovely and well drafted newsletter.

Paula Hocket says:

Thank you taking the time to produce a newsletter - another way you go ‘that extra mile’. Congratulations on your award, well deserved. Love to you both

Gary James says:

Another great newsletter. Well done on the award. You both deserve it. Hoping to see the shrouds at QE Park. Looking forward to seeing you both again next February.

Graham Taylor says:

Hi Julie & David

Still read your newsletter with interest. You do a tremendous job welcoming your guests to the Somme. Congrats on the Trip Advisor award. PK, Gaz, Nobby, Lol & Ginger send their regards. Don't forget to polish the plaque up. Spanners

Heather and Malcolm Johnson says:

As enlightening as ever. Well done on the award, you deserve nothing less. How nice it is to be able to write "see you later in the month"!

Sandy Biback says:

Thank you again for bringing the Somme back to life again for me. Congratulations on the award. So well deserved

Rob Kirk says:

Has Harriet recovered from the shock? Hope to see you next week. X

Chris Prince says:

Hi Julie and David, Love reading all about the guest that have visited you and who they have come to remember. Glad you got the aprons I made and pleased David will were something under them otherwise could be breezie. I hope November 11th will be very special to you both. Take care. Say hi the the girls.

JeanSmith says:

It's two years since my son Steve and I visited you for the 100 th Anniversary of my great uncle on 3rd July 1916. We're going to see the Shrouds of the Somme, William is commemorated on the Theival Memorial. I'm hoping we'll be back to see you both again.

Gordon & Joana says:

Tremendous ‘muriel’ from Colin! Love and best wishes for whatever you do on 11/11 and many congratulations for the TripAdvisor award (no, no, no need to thank me ...)

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