Walking The Somme: Ancre Valley

The Ancre Valley cuts across the northern Somme battlefield like a deep scar; in 1916 attack after attack saw heavy losses here. Our walk takes us from the small village of St Pierre Divion, to a bridge over the river Ancre itself, then on to the Ancre Cemetery and ending in Beaumont-Hamel.

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Podcast Extras – St Pierre Divion

Podcast Extras: Ancre

21 Comments on “Walking The Somme: Ancre Valley

  1. Another superb listen,Paul. Have you by any chance read or heard of the author Pat Barker and her Regeneration Trilogy, novels that contain descriptions of the need for a hospital dedicated to facial injuries and artists from the Slade School who worked with the surgeons to try and repair those horrific wounds caused by high explosives in WWI?
    Henry Tonks of The Slade was a principal artist, who had trained as a surgeon, worked at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup and one can see the portraits at http//www.gilliesarchives.org.uk

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    • Thanks, yes I’ve read and enjoyed all of Barker’s books on the Great War. I know of the Sidcup archive as we’ve used it a few times for TV programmes.

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  2. Thank you for another wonderful Podcast. Enjoy them all, but this is another favourite. Tremendous to learn more about Beaumont Hamel as well as the Ancre British Cemetery.

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  3. Many thanks Paul – an excellent podcast. As you head up the track above Ancre British Cemetery, does the concrete emplacement which you meet represent the German front line? Regards, John-George Willis.

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  4. Paul – Another great podcast.
    Thanks for mentioning my great uncle gunner W J Miles. Interested to see you found a picture of Lieutenant Hitchcock as I could find little about him when researching the A13 Crew.
    Having read of the death of Lynn Macdonald, It prompted me to re-read her book on the Somme. I had forgotten what a superb book it is. It vividly illustrates the appalling experiences of the common solder within the wider context of the politics and leadership at that period of the war.

    The river Ancre is chalk-stream, an exceptional aquatic environment limited to mostly parts of England and Northern France. Only 210 in the world of which 160 are in England. The River Test in Hampshire is a prime example. If the Ancre was in Southern England it would be preserved for Trout and Salmon fishing at a cost of several hundred pounds a day. As I know to my cost!

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    • Thanks for that, Martin. Glad you found this of interest and it was good to be able to tell their story for C4 back in 2016.

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  5. Another fantastic podcast, Paul. When I visited the Somme in 2014, I remember whilst sitting in the May sunshine, listening to the skylarks, on the banks of the Ancre, wondering how somewhere so peaceful and tranquil could have been the site of so much violence and bloodshed all those years ago.

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  6. It was Alain Nice to walk virtuele on the oud front line. Honing to return this summer.

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  7. In your preamble you referred to the apology made with regard to the failure to commemorate adequately the colonial personnel who died in combat in what are now independent African nations. I was one of those who suggested listening to your podcasts about Commonwealth soldiers on social media. It was in response to a comments made on Twitter, one suggesting that the same level of racism exists in the British Army now, and another that referred to “cannon fodder”. I felt it was important to show that the contribution of black and Asian soldiers is being acknowledged by battlefield guides. Proximity and accessibility mean that European battlefields are better known, but there may come a time when interest in those other theatres of war leads to guiding there just as there is now an interest in touring Vietnam. I am particularly conscious of the number of Commonwealth soldiers serving in the British Army today as there is a Jamaican born casualty in or local cemetery, killed in Afghanistan. He excelled as a soldier and I doubt that he considered himself “cannon fodder”. He died a proud Scots Guard.

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    • Yes, it’s an important subject which needs to be wider known and understood. I think very few men in the early years of the Great War felt themselves cannon fodder, whether conscription changed that is a matter of debate I guess.

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  8. Excellent podcast. Thanks for clarifying the position about the commemoration of black soldiers. Also interesting to hear about the slow dissemination of the Stahlhelm. I have heard of “hot bunking” in the submarine service, this sounds like “hot helmetting”!
    Being ex RN I was especially interested to hear about the role played by the RND.

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    • Thanks, Stephen. Yes indeed, the Stahlhelm wasn’t found on as many battlefields as we think until the last years of the war.

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      • Another stunningly interesting podcast, Paul. Haven’t left a comment for some time but am still listening. I have been to the Somme/Ypres a number of times but since I have been listening over the past year I have been scribbling so many notes to enable me to remember new sites to visit, inspired by your descriptions. Your story of the returned piece of stained glass window to Beaumont-Hamel is incredible.

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