WW1 Revisited

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Corporal Jules-André Peugeot was a 21 year old teacher from Eastern France who was mobilised and in uniform a hundred years ago today as his unit approached the German border while France and Germany went to war. They clashed with German cavalry and Peugeot was killed. This memorial to Peugeot, the first French Poilu to fall on the Western Front in 1914, was originally built after the war but was destroyed by… Read More

As the summer moves on, the rolling chalk downland fields of the Somme are filled with corn; blowing gently in the breeze as larks sing in the sky above. Here and there are scattered the small soldier’s cemeteries of the Somme battlefields; comrades cemeteries of men who fought and died together, now buried together. They mark the passage of conflict over this ground a century ago and their quiet majesty continues to… Read More

Today is the 97th Anniversary of the Battle of Arras, in some respects one of the forgotten battles of the Great War. Despite the huge amount of publications on Ypres and the Somme, in recent years only Jon Nicholl’s Cheerful Sacrifice, Peter Barton’s & Jeremy Banning’s Arras 1917 and my own Walking Arras have been published on this short but bloody battle. I blogged about this for the University of Oxford WW1 Centenary site last year… Read More

” A ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth!” C.E.W. Bean The Pozières Ridge was the scene of heavy fighting between July and September 1916 when Australian, British and later Canadian troops pushed the Germans back over what was the highest point on the 1916 Somme battlefields. On the nearby Pozières Windmill, which sites on the Ridge, an inscription reads: “The ruin of Pozières windmill which lies… Read More

Standing like some of neolithic monument with the backdrop of an autumn sunset, this concrete British Observation Post bunker is one of two located on the road between the villages of Auchonvillers and Mesnil on the Somme. They were built before the Battle of the Somme to allow Staff Officers a clear view towards the front lines at Beaumont-Hamel and Thiepval and were in use when the battle started on 1st July 1916…. Read More

The village of Sommepy in the Champagne battlefields was behind the German front line for most of the war until the ruins of it were taken by American troops from the American Expeditionary Force in September 1918. This archway, which was once part of the entrance to a large chateau, is the only remaining structure from the pre-1914 days still standing in the village. It is peppered with shell impact marks and… Read More

Located within the St Mihiel American Cemetery is an imposing stone statue of an American ‘Doughboy‘ – in fact an American officer dressed in the uniform worn by US troops here in 1918. The text on the memorial reads: Blessed are they that have the home longing for they shall go home. The memorial was placed in the cemetery by Harriet Beale, whose son Walker Beale is interred here. 1st Lieutenant Walker Blaine Beale served… Read More

The Tranchée de Calonne, despite it’s name, was not actually a trench: tranchée being the French for trench. Instead it was a long road running for more than 25km through the wooded area south-east of Verdun into what became known as the Saint Mihiel Salient. The area saw heavy fighting from September 1914 and some of the earliest trenches used by the French Army were dug among the trees here. French writer Alain… Read More

By the close of the Great War the French Army had lost more than 1.4 million dead: their burials are scattered across more than 350 mile of the Western Front occupied by French forces. In the Department of the Aisne the cemeteries are very evident between Soissons and Reims, and this one at Braine, taken in early evening light on a bright March day, commemorates the dead from operations on the Aisne… Read More

It is said that more than a thousands shells fell in every square metre of the Verdun battlefield in 1916 creating a vast crater zone, which is still visible on the battlefield nearly a century later. By the close of the fighting this battlefield had claimed more than 770,000 French and German casualties, and the French Poilus had called it ‘The Mincing Machine’. On this part of the battlefield at Abris 320… Read More