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Frajohn

Sunken Lane - New Owner

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Sly
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And soon you can be equipped with Dave O'Mara's guide (interest alert:  I commissioned it) to the 'French' Somme; in a year or two you should also be able to get some even more detailed accounts. South of the river can be enchanting and it is (so far as visitors are concerned) as deserted as the 'British' Somme of yesteryear. Even if you want a break from battlefield touring, the valley of the Somme west of Peronne is enchanting; and there are one or two very acceptable picnic spots as well.

 

Great,  I won't feel alone anymore in "my" sector of the Somme ! You are all welcome to discover the French sector (and German) and its numerous remains, memorials, trenches and bunkers...

 

See you soon there ?

Sly

 

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Hedley Malloch
On 31/05/2017 at 21:41, EAST YORKSHIRE said:

To open it up to visitors-I wonder if there will be an entrance fee.....

Well, who knows? I would have thought that the sorry history of the glory hole showed that unregulated 'development' of these historic sites of interest can create many more problems than it solves. 

 

And while we are on a nostalgia fest, I remember that 20 years ago when I first came to France, it was still possible to see the footings of Malin's hide on the edge of the White City from where he shot the blowing of the mine on Hawthorne Ridge. Of course this is not far from the sunken lane. They disappeared shortly afterwards when the owner 'developed' the site to install a water pumping station. He did not ask anyone's permission, because he did not need to.

 

We may be lucky and have another Richard Dunning in charge. But we may not. It's all a hostage to fortune. I for one will not be happy to see another site of memory disappear behind another toll booth.

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voltaire60

   My ex-wife is French, from another area- the heavily wooden area of the French Ardennes, while they now live in the Champagne region around Troyes- very much the "vasty fields of France". But as any number of books and documentaries about "landscape" in the UK have pointed out over the years, landscape is a) Largely man-made-certainly, heavily influenced by man  and  ii)   Ever-changing,  due to the balance of the activity both by man and nature.

   The Western Front sites would never be unchanging- those with fond memories of more spartan visits to the sites may well-justifiably- braid against change. But the landscape of 30 years ago was not the "original" post-Armistice landscape. Obviously.

    The Somme and Ypres had a settled agricultural landscape before 1914- rather similar to the Champagne of today in the Somme area. The area of devastation was approximately the size of Holland-hence, the area was just too large to be left as it was and the strong series of Anglo-French (and Belgian) agreements set the tone for what has happened-respectful remembrance and a return to the economy of pre-1914-that is, largely agricultural. The sites of interest are often those that were too marginal or damaged to have been recovered in the inter-war years as farmers cleared up.

    We have plenty of examples of  sites acquired by the National Trust,etc and then tarted up. You pays yer money and yer takes yer choice. One example in my home area is Plymbridge Woods, just outside of Plymouth-a delight when I was a kid but paths became worn and it could look run-down- When NT took over-tarmac car park, wooden fencing and wood-chip paths. Mass use conflicts-always-with what was there before. "Management" changes the landscape- the conflict of "leave it alone" versus attracting visitors questions the very essence of remembrance. 

     After the clearing-up post-1918, the landscape has been ever since some sort of pastiche-it's not what was left, nor-realistically, could it ever be. I feel sure that the input of GWF members as any of the sites changes will be heard and a vigorous debate will ensue. But, there is no single "right" answer in this. Memorialisation is not the same as preservation.

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nigelcave

Tripping off topic a bit, but back to memories of yesteryear a moment. Muerrisch (Post 19) reminisced about the very few numbers that attended the Menin Gate, particularly in the winter. In recent coverage of the Menin Gate the media, I think without exception, talks of the ceremony at the Gate at 8 pm; but I can recall for a good many years that it was 9 pm in the summer and 8 pm in the winter. Amongst other things, it made the matter of getting through a civilised supper without having to start it before 7 or even 7.30 pm possible (for those spending a lot of every day out and about visiting the Salient, with an early start, nice to have time for a shower and a tincture first), allowing for a night cap or three afterwards.

 

The Argonne (Voltaire above) - a wonderfully evocative area with much to see, though even here life moves on, as it will and as it should. Alas, the current forestry methods are having quite a dramatic impact on what had remained as vestiges of the war; but people have to live (though what percentage of foresters working on felling are actually locals these days does not seem to be very high, from my experience). 

 

 

Edited by nigelcave

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Muerrisch

Was it not the Duke of Wellington who told me:

 

"if it is not essential to change, it is essential not to change"

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voltaire60
51 minutes ago, Muerrisch said:

Was it not the Duke of Wellington who told me:

 

"if it is not essential to change, it is essential not to change"

   No, Lucius Cary,Viscount Falkland- "Falkland's Maxim"

     Best understood in it's Yorkshire translation- "If it ain't bust, don't fix it"

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Hedley Malloch
14 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

But, there is no single "right" answer in this. Memorialisation is not the same as preservation.

 

I agree, but there needs to be a view on what should be saved and what can be let go.

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voltaire60
17 minutes ago, Hedley Malloch said:

 

I agree, but there needs to be a view on what should be saved and what can be let go.

 

     Quite so- But those choices were largely made in the immediate post-war years as the countryside was cleared up. What has survived and is the subject of current debate is chance survival-and it's significance may be by chance as well. The Sunken Lane-What if the "Battle of the Somme" photographers had filmed another battalion further along the line? Would it mean as much to us?  Why that and not any stretch of front line from which any number of infantry battalions advanced on 1st July 1916?

    As with Hawthorn Crater-it survived the clearing up as there was not a lot a farmer could do with a hole in the ground, save watch it slowly fill with water. What we have are accidental survivals, rather than deliberate choices based on what was of significance.  There is a very good book on the subject, Hugh Clout: After the Ruins:Restoring the Countryside of Northern France after the Great War (1996). The "Commemoration Industry" must work with what it has- but that may not be what those involved in the war would have regarded as significant. 

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SiegeGunner
23 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

 

 As with Hawthorn Crater-it survived the clearing up as there was not a lot a farmer could do with a hole in the ground, save watch it slowly fill with water. What we have are accidental survivals, rather than deliberate choices based on what was of significance.  There is a very good book on the subject, Hugh Clout: After the Ruins:Restoring the Countryside of Northern France after the Great War (1996).  

 

Most Somme craters are/were in fractured chalk and so do not generally hold water.  The Hugh Clout book sounds very interesting.  Is it perchance still available?

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voltaire60

  Siege- You put me on the spot- As a semi-retired bookseller, I know that the book is still available-but cheapest copy on ABE in £65- Yes, my eyes are watering as well!!   As you appear to be south of the river down Wimbledon way, then there may be a copy for borrowing on the London Consortium-I'll check with my local library and  contact later.

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Hedley Malloch
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but cheapest copy on ABE in £65

 

... for which price you can buy a new one.  It is incredibly detailed.

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Hedley Malloch
1 hour ago, voltaire60 said:

 

     Quite so- But those choices were largely made in the immediate post-war years as the countryside was cleared up. What has survived and is the subject of current debate is chance survival-and it's significance may be by chance as well.

 

What has survived and why it has survived does not really matter.  The point is - it has survived.  We need a view on what should be kept and what could be let go.  It may be that there are other sites we don't know about, but I think we will have our work cut out managing those sites we do know about.  Adding in those sites we don't know about seems me to be one imponderable too far.

 

Hugh Clout's book is an excellent one, but it is not written as an inventory of sites of memory.  In my view a more authoritative source would be some of the better battlefield guides.

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SiegeGunner
39 minutes ago, Hedley Malloch said:

Hugh Clout's book is an excellent one, but it is not written as an inventory of sites of memory.  In my view a more authoritative source would be some of the better battlefield guides.

 

I have plenty of battlefield guides, Hedley, and on this occasion I'm interested in what was restored/reinstated, not what was preserved (deliberately or by default), so I think Clout's book would serve my purpose.  Thanks in advance to M. Arouet for looking for a copy for loan ... but I should point out that I'm not a member of a library.

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BullerTurner

I too remember when one could clearly discern Malin's location and get a very real sense of how the ground must have looked there.  I also recall when the dugouts on the sunken road were still quite stable and obvious but they are badly weathered now.

 

im old and selfish, I've seen them and I like the memory of those trips twenty, twenty five years ago.  I'm not sure another attraction, over and above the actual topography is needed there?  Next they will be building a replica of The Grandstand...or possibly one at each of the "most likely actual locations"??  I should NOT like that.

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mills-bomb
8 hours ago, BullerTurner said:

 

im old and selfish, I've seen them and I like the memory of those trips twenty, twenty five years ago.  I'm not sure another attraction, over and above the actual topography is needed there?  Next they will be building a replica of The Grandstand...or possibly one at each of the "most likely actual locations"??  I should NOT like that.

Perhaps we should wait until the new owner 'breaks cover' and shares any plans he/she/they may or may not have for the site before we shout the odds about what 'we' want.

 

After all [playing Devils advocate], if it is private land, it is theirs to do as they will with, within reason [French Mayor's not withstanding].

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voltaire60
15 minutes ago, mills-bomb said:

Perhaps we should wait until the new owner 'breaks cover' and shares any plans he/she/they may or may not have for the site before we shout the odds about what 'we' want.

 

After all [playing Devils advocate], if it is private land, it is theirs to do as they will with, within reason [French Mayor's not withstanding].

 

    Very much so - the French planning law system is not for the feint-hearted at the best of times-let alone on anything contentious. There is another thread (more than one?) about problems on visiting CWGC sites on the Western Front and a grumpy farmer. Whatever those problems may be with one individual,, I think most GWF members who have visited have reason to be grateful to the goodwill and friendliness of the local population - I have always found the local authorities, local police,etc. especially helpful.  The sheer amount of information about the Great War does tend to obscure one essential truth-  OUR heritage of it being a BRITISH (and Empire) war is tempered with it being part of FRENCH heritage as well  -it was/is their territory. In the end, what the French want as part of considerations of "heritage"  will prevail- and the French have done a remarkable job at restoring the Western Front yet giving proper latitude for British remembrance-I think this is much underestimated by many Brits.-just how much OUR systems of remembrance have melded in with French society and local government. Vive l'Entente.

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SiegeGunner

Has anyone visited either of the sites recently, and are there any signs of anything happening yet?

 

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Ghazala

Taken last September.

IMG_4767.PNG

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voltaire60

   And just a reminder of what it's all about- Men of the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Sunken Lane, taken on the morning of 1st July 1916.  Let us remember that the Somme took another 2 years and 4 months of bashing before the Armistice- so the lane, even at the end of the Somme Battle of 1916, had changed radically from what was there even on 1st July. It looks like the landscape is much more rounded and "flat" - gazillions of shells "sandpapered" the landscape down.Let us also remember that at the moment the pictures. were taken by the "Battle of the Somme" photographers, there were something around 250,000 men in similar lanes and dips in the ground or in reserve trenches further back. The Sunken Lane represents  the memorialisation for all attacking troops on that dreadful day.

 

 

Image result for lancashire fusiliers sunken lane somme

 

    Photograph- Not taken from IMW copy of "Battle of the Somme". Thus,in accord with public use policies for Crown Copyright materials

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Sly
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Has anyone visited either of the sites recently, and are there any signs of anything happening yet?

 

Hi,

 

I went there last week and didn't see anything particular... (apart a group of Brits who didn't reply when I said to them "bonjour"...)

 

Sly

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KIRKY
17 hours ago, Sly said:

 

Hi,

 

I went there last week and didn't see anything particular... (apart a group of Brits who didn't reply when I said to them "bonjour"...)

 

Sly

Sorry Sly on behalf of all decent Brits!

Tony

Hope you are well.

Edited by KIRKY

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keithmroberts

Looked there today after an absence of a few years. I was taken aback by the smarter area around the celtic cross, but so far as the lane was concerned the only comment i could make is that some of the scrub had been cut back.

 

Keith

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Fattyowls
23 hours ago, Sly said:

 

Hi,

 

I went there last week and didn't see anything particular... (apart a group of Brits who didn't reply when I said to them "bonjour"...)

 

Sly

 

Sly, like Tony I would like to wish you good day. Perhaps the taciturn Brits you met were concerned they might be trespassing, or worse still worried that they might have had to speak French.........:thumbsup:

 

Pete.

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Sly

Thank you Tony and Pete,

 

My comment wasn't aimed specifficaly to the Brits, it just annoys me when I come across people (whatever their nationality is) and greet them somewhere "in the fields" and they don't reply or simply ignore me. I have met French people like that too... (as well as Aussies, Dutch, Belgians, etc...)

 

Sly

 

 

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Doug504

Whenever I read of, or see crowds at the "honeypot" sites in the Somme region I remember this poem;

 

High Wood

Ladies and gentlemen, this is High Wood, 
Called by the French, Bois des Fourneaux, 
The famous spot which in Nineteen-Sixteen, 
July, August and September was the scene 
Of long and bitterly contested strife, 
By reason of its High commanding site. 
Observe the effect of shell-fire in the trees 
Standing and fallen; here is wire; this trench 
For months inhabited, twelve times changes hands; 
(They soon fall in), used later as a grave. 
It has been said on good authority 
That in the fighting for this patch of wood 
Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men, 
Of whom the greater part were buried here, 
This mound on which you stand being ... 
        Madame, please,

You are requested kindly not to touch 
Or take away the Company's property 
As souvenirs; you'll find we have on sale 
A large variety, all guaranteed. 
As I was saying, all is as it was, 
This is an unknown British officer, 
The tunic having lately rotten off. 
Please follow me - this way ... 
        The path, sir, please,

The ground which was secured at great expense 
The Company keeps absolutely untouched, 
And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide 
Refreshments at a reasonable rate. 
You are requested not to leave about 
Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange-peel, 
There are waste-paper baskets at the gate.

PHILIP JOHNSTONE, 1918

 

I'm sure those many old soldiers still lying peacefully under these sites don't mind the tourists at all, as long as we are not foolishly killing each other again.

 

Doug

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