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Remembered Today:

French Sector of the Somme


Fred van Woerkom
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FRENCH SECTOR OF THE SOMME

We are planning a short trip to the Somme in early May.

Can anyone give us info on the French on the Somme, 1914-1917, and what can still be seen or visited ?

Thanks.

Fred van Woerkom

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Fred,

I visited some of these areas about a year ago. You can find lots more information and pictures of what to look forward to in this topic in the other place:

Southern Somme (French sector) site info needed

Highly recommended to go and see these areas, especially Wallieux Wood in Soyecourt, well off the beaten track and you are virtually guaranteed to be alone there.

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A good book to invest in would be Major and Mrs Holt's battlefield guide to the somme

I beg to differ. There is almost next to nothing about the French. Which is ok because it is a book from a British perspective.

Better to invest in French sources?

Regards,

Marco

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The Chapel at Rancourt is a must as it contains a lot of original ceramic grave markers; there are also Britisn and German Cemeteries there as well as the french one

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Thanks, Pals !

The Holts Guide has something but not much on the French.

I'll study the sites you mentioned.

All the best,

Fred

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You asked about the French on the Somme 1914 -17, they were of course in most areas of the Somme until the British took over in the Summer of 1915. apart from the obvious, also think about the Serre, Redan Ridge and Beaumont Hamel areas.

Mick

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Yes there is a French cemetery and chapel near Serre but don't know how to get in the chapel.

The key is obtained from someone in Hebuterne - their address used to be on the board near the entrance. There is very little inside the chap to be honest, and it is in a very poor state.

Martin Middlebrook's 'Somme Battlefields' is pretty good on the French sector, with a whole chapter on it. It's the best source in English for this sector of the Somme.

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Thanks Paul, Paul and Mick.

"The Somme Battlefields' is indeed an invaluable source of information.

Titles of Books or booklets in French are also welcome.

All the best,

Fred

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Our trip may include May 1 or 8, both national holidays in France. Is that so?

Will restaurants and museums be closed? Will there be extra traffic on the roads?

All the best,

Fred

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Hi,

If I remember rightly, the series Twenty Years After also has snippets about the French sector of the Somme, I think that there may be still a bunker to see at Chaulnes (possibly - but is a good 15 years since I was last on the Somme). It is included in that series, as early in 1917, the BEF extended their line and took over some of the French line, I know that the 241st Bgde RFA, was in the vicinity of Flaucourt in Feb 1917.

Interesting area, especially the part played by the French Colonial troops. There is a Great War hisrory series which has good info on the French on the Somme, I will have a look the next time I am up in my loft, and then post its name (Going up in loft on Friday).

Looking at the Somme Valley, the American 33rd Division also took part in fighting there in 1918, one of their regiments fought near the Chipilly Spur. Have some info on this if you are interested. The German Cemy at Vermandovillers is also worth a visit, a stark reminder of our inhumanity to each other.

Hope is of some help.

Hillgorilla

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Thanks, Hillgorilla.

The German cemetery will certainly be on our programme.

Please have a look in your loft for infop on the French colonials/

All the best,

Fred

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Hi Fred,

Have scanned the pages from the book. The book is a Popular History of the Great War. The Allies at Bay 1916. Volume III. Edited by Sir J.A Hammerton. Have attached the images to this message.

Hope this is ok. I also have some pictures but am unable to find them at present, though will endeavour to look harder.

Best wishes

Hillgorilla (Nick)

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Nick,

Thanks. Can't find the images, though.

The Holts' Battlefield Guide had much more on the French sector than I thought. Very useful.

All the best,

Fred

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Hi Fred,

Sorry that the images have not worked. Do you have an email address I could send them to?

Nick (Hillgorilla)

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There are several memorials in the church of Bray-sur-Somme to a French regiment based there for some time (Le Havre regiment of infantry?), and also to army chaplains.

Angela

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello,

The french sector is lessknown but very interesting too.

There is a circuit of remembrance called "circuit des bleuets" but not many people knows about it ! This circuit is along the old frontline of 1916, starts at the Somme river near Frise village and ends at the South of Chaulnes area.

Many sites to see: Wallieux wood at Soyecourt with original first line german trenches, old village of Fay (destroyed in 1916), Frise park with a fantastic view on the Somme and trenches... and near Chaulnes sector there is still many bunkers (but you had to know where they are!)

I know that a battlefield tour company will soon offer a tour of the french battlefields starting from Péronne.

Sly

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Some photos of the french/german frontline in 1916

Many bunkers are still visible,

A quiet french village seen from a german observation tower bunker

443325635_97e96807d3.jpg

443312439_e2b763fb47.jpg

Other german bunkers near Chaulnes

384744697_802f3658de_m.jpg

A few french dug out are also there, monuments, cemetery, and some nice trenches areas too !

It's really a forgotten but interesting area to visit.

Sly

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Sly,

Thank you very much for the information and the pictures. Where was the first picture taken? Near Chaulnes?

Where can I get this CIRCUIT DES BLEUETS brochure?

All the best,

Fred

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Fred,

the "circuit des bleuets" exists but there's no really official brochure, no map, and most of the people (even those who live IN ) doesn't know about it...

I think that things will change, as I said a new battlefield tour company offers specialised tour of these sites , people, some french authorities and museums seem to be interested in.

Wait and see...

If you give me your email, I can send you a detailed intinerary of the 1916 french frontline.

I know quite well this circuit and french battlefield is really interesting, even if there is no "big" site such as Thiepval, Beaumont-Hamel, etc... but many little and original sites: trenches, bunkers, monuments...

However, many bunkers are difficult to find : hidden and in private fields ...

Best regards,

Sly

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  • 4 weeks later...

As promised I will give you a very short summary of what we saw south of the Somme, thanks to Sly, TD60, Hillgorilla and others.

First : beware of the traffic jams south of Péronne. There is a Bailey bridge now instead of the much older and wider bridge across the Somme.

We found the disused German cemetery in Flaucourt. It is also in the Holts' Guide.

On the road from Frise to Dompierre you have a wonderful view of trhe Somme as a number of lakes.

We did not see any TGV's at the Gare TGV de la Haute Picardie and the morose official was not really forthcoming with information.

At the Vermandovillers German Cemetery we read a poem by Alfred Lichtenstein (1888-1914), 'Abschied' (Farewell) written some seven weeks before his death. He is buried in one of the mass graves.

In Proyart we saw '' one of the most photogenic monuments of the Somme" as the Holts' Guide calls it: the little Arc de Triomphe.

In Belloy we happened to meet the teacher taking her pupils to the school bus. She had the keys to the mairie and showed us the text of Alan Seeger's I HAVE A RENDEZ-VOUS WITH DEATH inside. She explained to us that the Rue de Catalogne is so called because the Catalonians paid a handsome sum toward the reconstruction of the village.

Karl Lagerfeld, the well-known king of haute couture, paid for an edition of Alan Seeger's poems and letters.

All in all, there is a lot to be seen and I am sure we'll discover many more things.

All the best,

Fred

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