September News from No.fifty6 Goodbyes, Bears and Remembrance

Posted on 30th September 2017 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

September News from No.fifty6 Goodbyes, Bears and Remembrance

September – at the crossroads between summer and autumn, a month of beauty, changing weather, stories which enthrall us but overall tinged with a sadness this month as we say au revoir to one of our village’s most loved inhabitants.

Chere Cosette

Those who have visited here or read our blogs will know of Madame Cosette, the lady who ran the little shop across the road from us. To us and our guests, she was Mrs Miggins.

7 days a week, 12 hours a day she was in the little shop, dispensing not only bread and grocery essentials, but a cheery smile and a kind word or two to all who crossed her doorstep. There was always a baguette under the counter for David if we had run short. We were very fond of her. On Saturday 16th September Cosette opened her shop as normal but after taking a funny turn must have gone for a sit down where she was discovered a little while later, sadly gone from this world. The village was in a state of shock. There one minute, gone the next. Tributes came in from those who live here and from far away shores. It was a day of sadness. Cosette’s funeral was held on Thursday 21st September in our little church of La Boisselle. The church overflowed and we gathered with probably another 150 people who could not get into the church in the place outside and the funeral service was heard over a loudspeaker so all took part. On her coffin, a marble plaque of Cosette's image of her working in the shop. Afterwards the cortege walked to the little cemetery in La Boisselle where Cosette was interred alongside her beloved husband Roger.

Cosette was born in Italy to Italian parents but they moved to Montauban (3 miles from us) when Cosette was 2 and as a young girl post WW2 she worked as a seamstress. She met Roger in Albert got married in 1952 and in 1960 they built the house and shop she has lived in ever since. Roger who was a mechanic and used the big garage behind the shop died in 1990. She has been laid to rest alongside him. She often talked with love of Roger, taken from her too soon, just as he was about to retire.  She is survived by her son, grandchildren and great granddaughter.

So many people at her funeral (300+), so many floral tributes on her grave, one lady had touched so many hearts.  We only hope she knew how well she was loved and there is now a Cosette shaped hole in our hearts.

As for her shop, it has reopened, which we are really pleased about. Open currently for mornings only so the village can still get its daily bread and essential items. On the counter in the shop is a framed photo of darling Cosette. On each side of the photo is a tribute written by our friends Geoff and Naomi in Australia, who loved Cosette and what she represented too. The family framed the tribute and translated it into French, deeply touched that a couple 12000 miles away had a special link to Cosette.

Geoff and Naomi's tribute in the shop

Here is a link to their tribute in Facebook:

At the funeral we had to explain to Thierry, Cosette’s son, why we called her Mrs Miggins – the lady who owned a certain emporium in the Blackadder series. He laughed, smiled from his eyes and got the joke, saying his mother would have loved that.

Rest in Peace Chere Cosette reunited with your beloved Roger.  

Personal Pilgrimages

Those wanting to visit The Somme and pay respects to the events here generally, or to a family member have continued to find their way to our door in September. Our thanks to all those guests who honour and respect this special area and their loved ones who were here, some who went home, some who remain.

This month The Douthwaites from Staffordshire visited for the second time to remember their ancestors Wilf and Fred Greensmith. Fred is remembered on Thiepval having died in the North Staff’s 1st July 1916 attack at Gommecourt.  Wilf died on 30 October 1918 aged just 19 right at the end of the war. Wilf, with the Lincolnshire regiment died of his wounds and is buried at Awoignt Cemetery.

Brien Hobbs came to pay his respects 110 years to the day his great uncle James Brien died on 26 September 1916. James was killed during the Irish Guards attack on Les Boeufs. Brien is named for his Great Uncle. Brien's grandfather was also in the War, with the Heavy Machine Gunners (Tank crew) as a reconographer. He survived and went on to further service in the Army, and Brien too, following his forebears has seen service for his country.

David Locke came with his brother and mother to remember his mother's  Uncle  - Private Frederick John Sadler, who died on 1st July 1916 in the 2nd Middlesex’s attack on Mash Valley. Like so many others he has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. It was a pilgrimage the family had wanted to make together for many years.  On a windy day, the family made a very personal pilgrimage to the places where young Frederick  had fought and laid a wreath in his honour at Thiepval.

 Martin and Kate Howard visited having stayed with us several times. Martin’s grandfather served with the Kings Liverpool Regiment and left a diary and memories of his comrades left behind on the battlefields. Martin makes his own pilgrimages seeking out the men of the King’s Liverpool Regiment who did not make it home, wherever they now lie, remembering his grandfather as he does so.

At the end of the month David escorted Matt Dempsey and his family from Australia as they researched their Great Great Uncle John Finn Gleeson 14th Battalion AIF who died in the August 1916 attack on Mouquet Farm and has no known grave. His name is commemorated at Villers Bretonneux. Young Tess Dempsey, just 15 has taken on the mantle of family historian.

Friend and guest Terry Whenham tirelessly raises money for ABF the soldiers Charity, completing the Frontline Walk every year and guiding people on the battlefields in return for a donation to his chosen charity. In September Terry brought brother and sister Stephen Harvey and Trish Cox to the Somme as they traced their ancestors. Great Uncle George Anderton of the Manchester Regiment died 9 May 1917 at Bullecourt and is buried in Achiet le Grand. James Oliver, also a great uncle died from carbon monoxide poisoning while digging the Grange Tunnel at Vimy in August 1916 and is buried in beautiful Ecoivres Cemetery.

Stephen and Trish - photo courtesy of Terry Whenham.

Jo Bayley has stayed with us on her own personal pilgrimages and in September she brought 46 pupils from the school where she is History teacher - Chauncy School from Ware, Hertfordshire. Jo invited us to a short service the pupils held at Thiepval where they remembered the men of Ware who fought and died on The Somme. Names read, the Exhortation, the Kohima Epitaph and a minute's silence all beautifully observed. Seeing these 13/14 year olds pay homage to those who did not go home, humbled us. Thank you Jo for teaching tomorrow's generation the importance of remembering the past. 

Chancy School at Thiepval

Derek and Sandra Gibson have visited The Somme for many years. This year they traveled with their son David. Sandra’s father William Edwin Victor Dicks fought here on the Somme with the 14th Hampshire Regiment. He was wounded in September 1916 with a gunshot wound to his right elbow and back in the attack at the Ancre Valley. Derek and Sandra regularly make a pilgrimage on the day he was wounded and stand at the spot where the attack happened. William is mentioned in Michael Renshaw’s book on Beaucourt. William survived and went on to have 5 children. He died in 1971 of a broken heart, his wife having died 2 months earlier.

Sandra very kindly sent us photos and newspaper cuttings about her dad. In her own words she says:

"The newspaper cuttings are from our local paper at the time of the 50th anniversary in 1966 and were found amongst my Dad’s effects after he passed away. Dad had obviously cut them out of the paper at the time.  You may remember me saying about the discrepancy in the time they went over the top – the newspaper saying it was 5.45am and Dad, in his letter, saying 5.10am. I can confirm from my researches that the battalion diary states it was 5.10am and my Dad therefore was correct.

With regard to the Platoon photograph I believe my Dad to be in the third row, fifth from the right. The whole battalion was photographed before it left for France and this is one of the photos taken.

The photo of Dad on his own was taken in 1922 when he was 25yrs old. He was a lovely Dad and I would not have wished to change him for the world."

Derek, David and Sandra.

 We will remember them.

Journey’s End by R C Sherriff

Mesh Theatre are reviving the classic play Journeys End, live in the battlefields at the historic Kruitmagazijn (Ammunition Store) close to Ypres Station. Performed in English the play runs from 10 October to 12 November 2017.

Further details:


More great progress this month. The supporting back wall for the new dining area has been built and supporting front girder delivered – how they are going to put it in place we do not know and work is scheduled to begin on its installation next week.

Brickwork to the façade has been finished, now just requiring painting,  as has the leveled floor for the new dining area.

We have had water softeners fitted to all areas so the whole house now benefits from softened water.

However, now 5 months on WE ARE STILL awaiting the kitchen worktop that was ordered in April…latest delivery date 2nd October….

Renovation activity

 Animal Postscript

The chickens, rabbits and horses are all fine – little Hope the foal growing in stature and confidence. The chickens are definitely slowing down with one egg per day from our 4 girlies. Rita has taken to having afternoon naps in the doorway of the garden room half in and half out when the weather is fine.

Bear End

We have mentioned guest Terry Whenham earlier in this newsletter. We are delighted to say Terry brought his 2 bears – Russ and Fudge out of retirement for his latest visit. We skipped around the bedroom joyfully to see the bears back on Terry’s bed – with a little note…the bears were treated to chocolate and marmalade sandwiches. 


Comments (10)

Rebecca says:

So glad Cosette got a good send-off and that you were able to tell Thierry about "Mrs Miggins".
Thanks for sharing your news xx

Tim Brown says:

Always lovely to read the stories of visitors and their reason for being with you.
Looking forward to our next visit to you,
Take care

Colin Euers says:

Always a real pleasure reading your up-dates.
So sorry to hear about "Mrs.Miggins". A real stalwart in the village.
I remember staying with you when the chicks first arrived and staying out with them until dusk arrived and waited until they had all climbed into heir new hen house.
I guess that by the time you receive this the worktop will have arrived ????

sandy biback says:

Once again, your updates make me feel like I'm right there. I will get back there some day, and we will toast our return with wine of course

Terry Whenham says:

Thank you for another wonderful stay and see you again very soon. With so many stories you hear about awful teaching about WW1, to see Jo in action is wonderful! Her pupils are a credit to her and the school.

Sam Gascoyne says:

Another super read. Pleased to learn that there is no let-up in interest in the Great War. The work of Jo Bayley and her profession is to be roundly applauded.

Good luck with the long-awaited arrival of your kitchen worktop tomorrow!

Gary James says:

Another great read tinged with sadness and rememberance. The extension will be day.

Len Chaganis says:

As always it's great to hear from you both and the happenings in and around, makes me want to
jump in the car and head north to spend time in your part of France. Here in the Southwest the weather has been very good with the vandarge very underway, a good vintage we hope. Keep safe all the best Len

Steve Thomas says:

Sad news about Cosette, but the shop lives on! Great to see the school kids at Thiepval, the baton being passed to the next generation..

Janet and Peter Hetherington says:

Another great newsletter but sad to hear about Cosette,
We will be returning next year as we have found two more Uncles who lost their lives on the Somme. One is buried in the windmill celerity very near you and another on the Thiepval Monument. Our daughter with her husband and our three grandsons visited them on their holiday in France this summer. While we and our families remember them, those brave men will never be forgotten.

Leave a comment