I wanted/needed to visit the Somme battlefields to pay my respects to my uncle who was killed in 1918 at the age of 20. He came from small town New Zealand, from 'the uttermost ends of the earth' as it is described. I also wanted to put the war in perspective as NZ sent 120,000 soldiers from its population of only 1 million, or 42% of those of military age. Most Anzac Day emphasis is put on Gallipoli but the casualty rate on the Western Front was much higher. It would be impossible to make a battlefield pilgrimage alone or by using public transport. I eventually engaged Cobbers Battlefield Tours and on the day found myself with driver guide Brian Hoggard. Because of a late withdrawal I was the only passenger and so I had a personal chauffeur! Brian took me to all the places on my list and a number of others. Grevillers, where my uncle's memorial is, was very special but the Newfoundland memorial made a huge impact. The South African memorial was the most extensive but the British and Australian memorials were impressive in other ways. The new visitor centre at Thiepval is a 'must visit' and I wish I could have stayed longer. The way these memorials are maintained is a credit to the CWGC. A very memorable and thought provoking day. In no sense did it glorify war but it honoured those who died and raised questions about the futility of war. With Brian's knowledge, easy manner and sense of humour we accomplished all that I wanted to, and more besides.
If you own or manage Cobbers Battlefield Tours, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.