This was the day where we headed deep into that victorious year of 1918.The areas that we visited were all featured in the 1918 advance to victory leading up until the 5th October when the Australian Corps came out of the line for the last time.
We started at Heath Cemetery where Ron Lyons took us into 1918 from the time of the 8th August, the German's Blackest Day, Ron explained how the campaign and the advance proceeded with the Canadians on our southern flank and the British on our North. The Australian area of responsibility was from the Somme until the Roman Road. Heath Cemetery has many Australians interred as this was the area of the fluid warefare where the Germans were on the run and the Australians passed objective after objective. It was not a helter skelter forward race but a planned advance with set objectives, all went well but there were still many casualties.
Following our time at Heath Cemetery we moved forward where I took us through the action of Sgt Percy Stratton as he won his Victoria Cross on the 12th August 1918 at Proyart in exceptional circumstances charging and defeating 4 German Machine Gun teams across hundreds of metres of open field. He survived to fight on, others were not so lucky.
Our support vehicle then escorted a couple of our group to locations where family had been interred. While at Franvillers Cemetery, for Russell Parker, we were fortunate to be included in the local VE Day Service with the village. One of those moments in time.
We moved on to Theipval where we found the relative of Hillary Hutchison, Pte Richard Williams 2nd Bn Royal Irish Rifles, who has an unknown grave and is named on the wall at Theipval. A very moving moment.
We caught up to the coaches at Bellenglisse where we allowed all the group to return to their respective coach. Riqueval Canal and Montbrehain followed. Montbrehain is in fact the last ridge to the east where the Australians had fought and Ron taking us through this last battle set up the visit to High Tree Cemetery where we visited our last Cemetery on the Somme. At High Tree is the grave of Pte Taylor, the most easterly grave of an Australian. Lest we forget.
Near this cemetery is a farm owned by a friend of mine, Daniel Paul. I was so glad to see Daniel as in 2010 when I last visited him he had just undergone a major cancer operation and it did not look good for his future. I am happy to say that we met again, had cake in his kitchen, and talked about the earlier times and his survival. A wonderful man who never forgets a friend. Military History Tours, he says, is the only group who visit High Trees Cemetery. A Pity!!