Posted in Canada remembers, Projects

From Insomnia to the Somme

Another bout of insomnia gave me additional time to think about our bus trip tour of first world war sites in Europe during the spring of 2011. I was thinking about the stories of men who served that I wrote about in the post called the Remembrance Project 2018.

That lead me to remember the timethat we spent at a monument in France where I spent every last second of that stop reading stories of the men who went Missing in the Somme. It was another sobering stop on a trip full of sobering thoughts. This one though was unique because of the stories. Each man pictured below had a corresponding story about his life and death written up. I wanted to read each and every one so that I felt like I had honoured their ultimate sacrifice. Time did not allow that.


There is an excellent link here at the Battlefields of the Somme that details positions, death tolls, the Thievpal Memorial and why this offensive was so important at the time. The numbers from this offensive were staggering high; the loss of life, the missing, the injured who returned home to try and resume a “normal” life. Thiopval Memorial

The memorial is massive and can be seen for miles around. The cemetery here seems quite small and almost insignificant, overshadowed by the joint French and English monument.

Thiopval Memorial

Thiopval Memorial

This area of France is full of cemeteries that reflect the loss of life in the Somme offensive, many with Canadian connections. None more so than Adanac, the name taken from spelling Canada backwards. A link to Adanac Cemetery  leads to the info that there are a staggering  3,186 Commonwealth burials and commemorations in this cemetery alone; of that 1,708 of the burials are unidentified.



24th Canadian Battalion, Private Hayes. #65433. Died at the age of 18.

We will remember their sacrifice.


PS As per usual today the technology struggle was to try and find my word document diary of our trip. Alas I never did.

PPS If you’ve been to the Somme area and have memories about your trip and how the stories impacted your head please leave a comment. It’s worth the work to share these thoughts.

2 thoughts on “From Insomnia to the Somme

  1. Thanks for you thoughtful posts, Bernie.
    Almost exactly a year ago we did a cemetery tour ( mostly WW 1)in Belgium ending by attending the daily Last Post at Menin Gate.
    The sheer numbers overwhelmed me. All day we drove from cemetery to cemetery, (they’re so close together, )and wandered among the stones. Row on row..
    Trying to imagine the horror of the gas attacks. John McCrae’s tiny medical post near the front line. Standing in a trench at Passchendaele. Talking to a farmer there who still finds ordnance in his strawberry fields.
    The senselessness of this war.


    1. I was struck by the trees around the tunnels of Hill 63. The landscape looks so green and pastoral now and yet then it was a bog with mud everywhere and not a tree in site. It’s hard to imagine the bleak starkness of it during the war.


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