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Remembered Today:

My battlefield story


MoonMonkey
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Hi

Newbie here, my name is Steve and I am 34 years old, and I am a WW1 buff......this sounds like an AA meeting! (not that I would know!)

I don't claim to be an expert, just have a keen amatuer interest. Anyway....been on lost of visits to sites in France and Belgium, but though I would share a interesting story from my first WW1 tour.

We did all the usual places on the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Beamont Hamel, Theipval, Notre Dame de Lorette, etc, etc. One interesting aside was that I met Professor Richard Holmes at Thiepval taking a group of Canadians round, and got him to sigh a book! Anyway....

We decided to find somewhere a bit more off the beaten track. My wife picked out a place from the Holts' book. it was a memorial to a Welsh unit. We drove for miles down country lanes, and then down farm tracks, and the track eneded in a field. There was a statue of a red welsh dragon overlooking the field, with a memorial on it. A bit further on was a walled cemetery for the unit.

Next to this cemetery was a large field that had just been ploughed. We decided to walk the furrows to see what we could see. I didn't expect to find anything, but went along wth it anyway. Between four of us we found, just lying on the surface...

A rusty bayonet tip

Parts of a rifle lock/stock

several mills bombs fragents (some of which were almost complete bombs) and shrapnel (the balls inside)

bullet cases

an unfired bullet

a gass mask eye piece

several buttons

glass bottle fragments, some with embossed writing on

something that looked uncomfortably like part of a human pelvis.

lots of barbed wire parts and supports

Most of these thing were found at the ends of the furrows where the tractor turns. Amazing that so much was lying on the surface, must be so much down there.

We offered all of this to a local museum, but the curator said he has piles and piles of such stuff. So we took it home to show to our school kids (we are both teachers). The kids are always amazed that the land is still so affected by the war.

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Hi Steve, welcome to the forum :D

The Red Dragon was made just down the road from me by sculptor David Petersen, an impressive piece of work. Good to see that you are passing on your interest to the school kids. Looking forward to your imput on the forum, this place has become very addictive and is a fountain of information and knowledge....please leave anoraks by the door...

cheers, Jon

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Hi Steve

Welcome. Your story is fascinating. If you have bits to pass on "Kevinaka1888" (spongebob) is scrounging for stuff to take around the schools. I don't think he wants to blow them up!

Howard

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Thanks for the welcome guys.

Made just down the road? Wow, it is a small word! It is impressive indeed.....here is a picture of it I found on someone's blog:

Image removed: sorry but you can't hotlink to images on other people websites without their permission. Happy to replace if you got permission.

I do still have the bits knocking around in a school cupboard somewhere, I'll dig them out.

Cheers

Steve

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Guest KevinEndon

Next to the dragon is a cairn with information on the top. When a group of us from the forum were out there last March someone had left a live shell on top of the cairn so that the wee man in the van could see it and remove it. I found it rather strange to place a live shell on top of a place where people will stand to read the info on the cairn. I wonder how long it took the man in the van to remove it.

There is a thread on the forum with a burnt out car in the gully just below the dragon, I wonder if they decided to remove the shell.

Kevin

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Kevin,

And here I was, trying to find the thread about the Dragon and the fighting that happened there, and you come along.

Excellent.

Steve, some of us Aussies were there last August. The fields were full of ripe crop, the woods, sombre and shaded.

It is a special place that I often think about.

Kim

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Hi K & K!

Yes, the woods at the back of the field were a very sombre and eerie place. There were still deep furrows and holes which made me wonder if they were remains of trenches and shell holes.

I actually went back there a couple of years after my original visit, and this time the field had a crop growing on it, and there was no sign of any artefacts at all this time. It was a disappointment for my friend who had never been there and I had told all about how easy it was to find artefacts!! Typical!

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Folks,

Remember that Mametz Wood battlefield is probably where the cream of Welsh manhood disappeared in 1916. 28 lads from Ruthin (pop 5000) died there in three days, including two sets of brothers. I lost a great uncle there - never found poor lad.

'Tread softly; for you tread on my dreams and memories'

Geraint

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Hi Geraint

The cemetary there looks well cared for, and judging by the visitors book it gets a steady stream of coaches, despite being out in the sticks and down narrow lanes.

We always proceeded with the utmost respect when exploring those areas, and the fragments of artefacts have been used for education, to remind children of the scale of what happened to their ancestors.

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Hi Steve,

You might like to take a look at a recent-ish thread under 'Western Front' titled Welsh at Mametz Wood which gives you (and the kids) some background to that specific area. 2nd topic down when I looked a few minutes ago.

I wish I could give you a more professional link but my computer skills are not upto it!

Paul

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Graves would have looked gravely :lol: at it!

Mind you, he was not really involved at Mametz Wood, his battalion were in the vicinity prior to 10 July, but quickly rushed off when the Welsh Division arrived - you know, those half trained ,child-like little Welshmen, as Sassoon called them. I think that Graves had the same low regard for his ORs. Though, I do admit both did gain a greater degree of respect towards the boyos as time went by.

I think the Dragon is excellent. - nothing Disneyesque to it - red, vicious, ragged, thrusting a claw full of barbed wire in to the enemy's direction; standing into a hail of fire, non-yealding, three claws solid on the ground, neither giving nor expecting mercy. A good representation of the lads who lived through, and of those who died there.

Geraint

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Welcome Steve

I know what you mean about seeing artefacts around those woods. I wandered around those fields some years ago and found the ditches around the fields full of unexploded munitions. It was clear the farmer (at that time - maybe different now) was simply depositing ploughed up shells out of the way in a ditch. I was mightily relieved to be out those ditches and back on the beaten track.

A very emotional place - whatever your area of UK as origin.

Jim

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Guest KevinEndon

What was sickening about Memetz wood was that fact that we came accross freshly dug holes where someone had been clearly using a metal detector. I feel that its fine to pick relics up that have been washed to the surface through years of rain and ploughing, but to go into the wood with metal detectors and search for personnal effects is (in my eyes) a tad naughty.

Kevin

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More than a tad naughty - it is illegal. But I agree - illegal or not very unwelcome.

Jim

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Absolutley. Deliberatley digging up fields and woods is not something I would ever dream of doing.

That should only be done by sanctioned experts who are doing it through proper channels.

Finding a few bullet cases, bits of shrapnel and barbed wire on the surface is fine, happens all the time, but I would never go digging.

If we had found anything that was personal to a soldier then we would have made sure it was passed to the proper authorities.

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There was a statue of a red welsh dragon overlooking the field, with a memorial on it. A bit further on was a walled cemetery for the unit.

Presumably the cemetery was Flatiron Copse ?

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If we had found anything that was personal to a soldier then we would have made sure it was passed to the proper authorities.

So what did you do with the suspected piece of pelvis?

Are you saying you brought home an unfired bullet?

Gwyn

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The bullet? We were obviously concerned about it, and worried it was dangerous, we treated it gently! We showed it to the curator at the museum at Notre Dame de Lorette (our next stop) for his advice. He took us around the back of the museum, and showed us a pile of them, and casually tossed ours one onto the pile. So much for us treating it gently! We certianly did not want to try taking that through customs! The rest of the stuff he told us to take away.

The pelvis? Well, I suspect it was actually a piece of oddly shaped white rock that our over fertile imaginations read more into. We left it where it was.

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Every time this comes up I mention I have seen a man under arrest byt Fench police for battlefield relic possession, I do not know if they were dug. This was in the Argonne.

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Blimey, who'd have thought I'd have been a wanted man in France for picking up a few pieces of rusty barbed wire?

Better give up the booze cruises to Calais! ;)

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I see.

I misread the part of your post where you said, "We offered all of this to a local museum, ... So we took it home..."

Personally speaking, I wouldn't make any distinction between carrying live ammunition to the local museum or to Calais, although it sounds rather as if you were as bothered about Customs finding it as any risks from carting round potentially unstable explosive material.

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Nahh.....customs don't bother me. I would've just hid it in all the heroin and semtex that hardened criminals like me regularly deal in. A mere bullet? I've got entire ammunition belts down my pants you know.

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"Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams"

Remember that Mametz Wood, and all the other Somme fields are battlefields where a lot of young blood was spilt only 90 YEARS AGO. tHESE PLACES ARE WHERE THREE MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY DIED, AND others fought. They are not recreational grounds nor theme parks for us to scoot about. perhaps I'm an old fashoned anorak, but they do have an intense personal connection, as they do to the Forum's membership. I'm uneasy about digging/searching for trophies and carrying them back here in such a casual manner.

Geraint

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