A group from the Bexhill & District Veterans Association recently visited the WW1 battlefields of the Somme.
Their first stop was the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. Sixteen pillars are engraved with the names of 73,367 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell during that battle between July and November 1916 and have no known grave.
From here, they saw the Lochnagar Crater under which British troops dug a tunnel on the hill manned by the Germans, a large amount of explosives were placed in the tunnel and exploded with such force that it was said it could be heard in London, leaving this large crater and the Germans in disarray.
Leaving Arras, the group visited Vimy Ridge, the Canadian Memorial and Visitor Centre, Hill 60 the scene of fierce action in the second battle of Ypres. Then on to the Passchendaele Museum which showed the devastation of the third battle.
In the evening, they attended the Menin Gate ceremony at 8pm where three members of the group laid poppy wreaths on behalf the Bexhill & District Veterans Association, the Guards Club, Eastbourne branch and the Royal Sussex Regiment, Eastbourne branch.
This ceremony takes place every evening at 8pm and the Last Post is played by three firemen from Ypres.
The final day was spent at the Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial, which is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world for any war.
On this trip, three of the group’s members found the graves of relatives and were able to lay wreaths.
Everyone agreed that the trip was a wonderful, yet very moving experience but there was a profound sense of sadness at the terrible loss of so many young lives. All the cemeteries are immaculately kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The group meets at 1pm on the first Thursday of each month at the Conservative Club, Amherst Road.
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