Once on the continent we make our way towards Amiens stopping at Flixecourt, a vital industrial and training hub for the BEF in 1916 & 1918, often overlooked reminders of the war survive a century on. From the Chateau that housed the Fourth Army Battle School, we set the scene for the 1916 Somme Offensive and view Flixecourt through the eyes of a number of men who trained here including Siegfried Sassoon. We then continue onto our accommodation in Amiens and the centrally located Hotel Moxy.
Our morning begins with a visit to the site of ‘the Grandstand’ a purpose built viewing platfrom for staff officers and command to witness the opening phases on the 1916 battle. We continue onto the ground between Auchenvillers and Beaumont Hamel to make a detailed study of the 29th Divisions assault on the 1st July, through a number of key stands we look at the challenges faced by this regular division and their use of artillery, infantry support weapons and mining.
The afternoon will be spent looking at the more succesfull, yet still costly attacks by two New Army Divisions, the 18th (Eastern) and 30th Division around Carnoy and Montauban, again looking at the technological and tactical innovations employed before ending the day around the Pommiers Redoubt and directly opposed by dense woodland.
On arrival back in Amiens, Clive will lead a short evening walk to look at some of the popular wartime haunts for men when out of the line, including the famous Salon Godbert.
John Terraine described the the horseshoe of Trones, Bernafay, Mametz, High and Delvile Woods as representing ‘the true texture of the Somme’ and our morning is spent studying the evolution of woodfighting, (somewhat surprisingly something the BEF had yet to encounter in the first two years of the war).
Comparing the 38th (Welsh) Division assault on Mametz Wood on the 7 July and the 47th (London) Division action at Highwood on the 15 September, we will discover how both actions witnessed the costly bitter nature of fighting in woods and lead to the removal of respective divisional commanders, we will also consider how the tactics and technology differed in wood fighting as the Somme Battle progressed.
During the afternoon we remain with the 47th (London) Division as we turn our attention to the numerous small fortified farms and villages that stretch between Martinpuich and the Butte du Warlencourt. As summer became autumn and the weather worsoned, we consider the attritional nature of fighting through destroyed yet still defended villages set against the deteriorating landscape, torn apart by the increasing violence of artillery and over soften rain sodden ground, in many ways these conditions foretold the conditions in the Ypres Salient the following year. We end atop the Butte de Warlencourt to consider the Somme offensive, its cost, and its place in the nations psyche over a century on.
Beginning at Villers Bretonneux we consider the end of the German Spring Offensive and whether the arrival of fresh Australian troops in the right place at the right time was good a fortunate or good planning. After visiting a number of key spots including time to explore the Sir John Monash centre, we then follow the advances of 4 July at Le Hamel, 8 August (Battle of Amiens) through to the capture or Mont St Quentin to learn how the combined efforts of British, Australian and Canadian troops finally pushed back over the old Somme Battlefield, threatening the long held German Schwerpunkt at St Pierre Vaast Wood and leading to a war of movement as they approached the Hindenburg Line.
Personal visits and requests are encouraged throughout.