Fricourt and Mametz

Fricourt
AFTERMATH
by Siegfried Sassoon (1920)
HAVE you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz--
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench--
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack--
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads--those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forg
et.

Situated on the D147 and D64 junction about 20 miles northeast of Amiens is this town which had been close to the front line for much of the Great War and saw particularly fierce fighting during the Battles of the Somme and the Battles of Albert. It is about a mile from Mametz.
Fricourt British CWGC
This cemetery has 133 graves located in what had been within the No Man's Land of July the 1st 1916.
 Among the graves is that of Major Robert George Raper who was killed July 2, 1916 whilst leading two forward companies in successfully taking the objective of Lozenge Alley under heavy fire.
 In honour of him, the town named one of its roads after him
Right in the back on the right side of the cemetery is this Memorial to the 7th Green Howards Battalion. The stone memorial cross, which replaced the original timber one, was placed here in memory of those Green Howards who died near here that day after having attacked fifteen minutes after zero hour at 7.45 a.m. on the 1st of July 1916 due to some confusion, and were cut to pieces by a single machine-gun as a result.
Fricourt New Military CWGC
Along a small track to the west of the village is this cemetery where 210 lie buried, 26 of whom are still unidentified. This CWGC is in fact made up of four large graves made by the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment after it took Fricourt July 1916.
An interesting additional memorial to a stone, in this case in the form of a scroll for the poet Lieutenant Alfred Ratcliffe, Cambridge University graduate, barrister and a friend of Rupert Brooke:
Optimism
At last there'll dawn the last of the long year,
Of the long year that seemed to dream no end,
Whose every dawn but turned the world more drear,
And slew some hope, or led away some friend.
Or be you dark, or buffeting, or blind,
We care not, day, but leave not death behind.
The hours that feed on war go heavy-hearted,
Death is no fare wherewith to make hearts fain.
Oh, we are sick to find that they who started
With glamour in their eyes came not again.
O day, be long and heavy if you will,
But on our hopes set not a bitter heel.
For tiny hopes like tiny flowers of Spring
Will come, though death and ruin hold the land,
Though storms may roar they may not break the wing
Of the earthed lark whose song is ever bland.
Fell year unpitiful, slow days of scorn,
Your kind shall die, and sweeter days be born.
A. Victor Ratcliffe
Fricourt German Cemetery


To the north of the village is this German cemetery.

Most of these crosses stand for members of the Imperial German 2nd Army. Of the 17,000 names on them, about 1,000 of died in the autumn of 1914 and the ensuing trench warfare; about 10,000 during the Battle of the Somme (July-November 1916); and the final 6,000 in the Spring Offensive and the Allied counter-attack, Hundred Days, that followed it, in 1918. Starting from 1977 the provisional wood grave markers were exchanged with those made of metal with raised names and dates, where possible. The German Federal Armed Forces took over the construction of the concrete foundations necessary for setting up the metal crosses, which were shifted mostly by participants in youth camps.



This cross is actually where the famous German fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, killed on April 21 1918 in aerial combat, was buried with military honours by the British. Later his remains were transferred first to Fricourt, then to the Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery in Berlin, and finally to a family plot in Wiesbaden.
Jewish stones beside crosses show the sacrifice made in an earlier war denied later on. There are in fact 14 graves for Jewish soldiers, each marked with a headstone instead of a cross. The Hebrew characters mean "XXX rests buried" and "their soul may be enwoven into the circle of the living persons."

Mametz is a village about 8 kilometres east of the town of Albert.
Battle at Mametz Wood by Christopher Williams (1918)
Mametz Wood was the objective of the 38th (Welsh) Division during the First Battle of the Somme between July 7th and 12th, 1916. The attack of the 7 July failed to reach the wood before the men were halted by machine gun fire. Further attacks by the 17th Division on 8 July failed to improve the position.

Infuriated by what he saw as a distinct lack of 'push' Sir Douglas Haig and Henry Rawlinson visited the HQ of the Welsh Division to make their displeasure known. Major General Ivor Philipps, officer commanding the Welsh Division, was subsequently relieved of his command. Haig passed control of the Division to Major General Watts, commander of the 7th Division and told him to use it 'as he saw fit'. Watts planned a full scale attack for the 9 July but organising the attacking formations took some time and the attack was subsequently postponed until 10 July 1916. The operational order was blunt, stating that the Division would attack the wood with the aim of 'capturing the whole of it'.

The 10 July attack was on a larger scale than had been attempted earlier. Despite heavy casualties the fringe of the wood was soon reached and some bayonet fighting took place before the wood was entered and a number of German machine guns silenced.

The 14th Welsh (Swansea) Battalion went into the attack with 676 men and after a day of hard fighting had lost almost 400 men killed or wounded before being relieved. Other battalions suffered similar losses. However, by the 12th the wood was effectively cleared of the enemy. The Welsh Division had lost about 4,000 men killed or wounded in this searing engagement. It would not be used in a massed attack again until July 31st, 1917.

A vivid description of the fighting in Mametz Wood may be found in In Parenthesis, a modernist novel written by British poet and visual artist David Jones, who took part in the battle.

38th (Welsh) Division Dragon Memorial
A Welsh language sign in front of a French War memorial

Took me ages of cycling through woods and a rough single lane road to find this. The memorial takes the form of a red Welsh Dragon tearing at barbed wire on top of a 3 metre plinth. It was at this battle that Siegfried Sassoon made a single handed attack on the enemy trenches on 4 July 1916, as recorded in his memoirs. One can still make out overgrown craters and trenches.
video
Small sample of video clips showing views of the Welsh Memorial at Mametz Wood from the Video History Today database. http://www.videohistorytoday.com

Dantzig Alley CWGC
This cemetery is located east of Mametz, on the north side of the D64, to Montauban. It is very near to the site of the German Dantzig Alley trench, which was captured by the 2nd Queens and 22nd Manchesters on the 1st of July 1916.
A stone in the wall commemorating the Royal Welch Fusiliers killed on the Somme between 1916 and 1918.
Over 2,000 lie buried here, 1535 of whom are identified. A rather strange inscription here reads "OF THE UNION BANK, HYDE".
Apparently the family was proud their relative had made managed to get a good job at a bank.
At the back is this interesting memorial in the form of a seat to the 14th Battalion of the Welsh Fusiliers . It has a quotation by Hedd Wyn, who had been awarded the Bardic Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod, Birkenhead, for his poem "Yr Arwr" ("The Hero"):
Ni all pellterau eich gyrru yn ango
Blant y bryniau glan
Calon wrth galon sy’n aros eto
Er a wahan

Distance cannot take away your memory
Children of those dear hills
Heart and heart remain together
Even though you are far away
Wynn had been killed earlier whilst serving with 15th Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, at Pilckem Ridge on July 31st (at the same time as another war poet, Francis Ledwidge).

The memorial also reads "Erected by the Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the 14th (S) battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 38th Welsh Division in memory of their comrades."

Flatiron Copse CWGC
This cemetery is located about seven miles east of Albert in France. There are now 1,572 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated here with 420 of the burials unidentified. It was started by the 3rd and 7th Divisions on July 14, 1916 whilst clearing Mametz Wood which you can see at the back of the cemetery. Among the 1500 graves, there are three pairs of brothers and a VC:
Lieutenants Arthur and Leonard Tregaskis both killed July 7
Lance Corporal Harry and Corporal Thomas Hardwidge, both killed July 11- both killed whilst trying to help the other.Privates Ernest and Herbert Philby, both killed August 21, 1916.
The grave of Lance Corporal Edward Dwyer, VC of the 1st East Surreys; one of four men who won VCs at Hill 60 in 1915. . He took part in the retreat from Mons in 1914 and was promoted in 1915. He was killed in action at Guillemont September 4, 1916. Pte Dwyer received his Victoria Cross from HM King George V at Buckingham Palace on June 15, 1915.
His Citation reads:
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on “Hill Sixty”on 20th April 1915. When his trench was heavily attacked by German grenade throwers, he climbed on to the parapet and although subjected to a hail of bombs at close quarters, succeeded in dispersing the enemy by the effective use of his hand grenades. Private Dwyer displayed great gallantry earlier in this day, in leaving his trench under heavy shell fire to bandage his wounded comrade.