Walking The Somme: Albert


Located at the heart of the Somme battlefields, the town of Albert, known as ‘Bert to the troops, was the route to the front line – all roads led there in 1916. Here we look at what the town meant to those who served on the Somme, examine the story of the Basilica with its figure of Mary, which Australian soldiers called ‘Fanny Durack’ and then look at the British graves in Albert Communal Cemetery and end on the outskirts of the town at Bapaume Post Military Cemetery.

Andrew Thornton’s article on the Londo Irish Patrolinto Albert 1918: Our War Blog

RECOMMENDED READING

Podcast Extras: Albert in WW1

Podcast Extras: Albert Today

17 Comments on “Walking The Somme: Albert

  1. Another really excellent podcast Paul! Thanks very much. The Old Front Line has kept me going on my daily Covid walks. Brilliant!

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  2. Thank you from Hamilton Ontario for all you do and to remember the Canadians. I dont even know how to begin a walk in the Somme. How to plan, where to stay and when to go. I did go on a Go Ahead Travel tour in April 2017 for Vimy and surrounding area and went to that spectacular huge cemetery not far from Arras but tour was quick. Saw Beaumont Hamel battle memorial to our Newfoundlanders. I would like to find somebody to help me figure it out to spend more time in the area and walk about. My wife’s grandfather Lt Col Herbert Douglas Fearman, of Hamilton was a Lt in the 19 th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Cdn Div. They fought at the Somme as well. He climbed the ranks to Adjutant and acting Major by Vimy. He lived to return by summer 1918 as the war was winding down. He received the DSO at Buckingham Palace summer 1917 for his actions at Vimy.

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    • Hi Steve – my books on Walking the battlefields should help. The Arras one covers Vimy and the book I wrote about Courcelette has some walks in it too.

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    • Steve,
      I have been many times to the Somme, Vimy, Beaumont-Hamel and Ypres areas. I live in Peterborough, ON. I planned my trip by searching Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War with my last name (Lush). There were only six. And coincidentally we found another Lush in the first cemetery that we visited who was from Britain. I recommend Canadians At War by Susan Evans Shaw. Every place worth travelling to for Canadians. My grandfather was in the PPCLI and the 164th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I researched the Princess Pats and followed their movements throughout France. You may want to follow your wife’s grandfathers tracks. He had a distinguished career of service. Use the Canadian Archieves too. You can get daily reports of almost any Canadian Battalion during the First World War. I also recommend staying B&B’s on the battlefields. Very moving. When we do get to travel again, I hope you return to these battlefields. I am already planning my next visit!

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      • Hi Burke, maybe I could tag along with your group? I am done the research on Fearman, read plenty of war diaries and some he inscribed. The 1000 in the battalion rotated 5000 through. I suppose many died or wounded.

        I do not know anything about renting cars, its hard to plan where to stay and for how long, and how many battle sites, museums and cemeteries to visit.

        Is there a Best of Travel Book on say 2 weeks tour of the western front, 1 week tour etc. If my wife came she would want time in the villages too to enjoy the shops and cafes. So would I.

        I suppose choosing one or two base villages would make sense. Any of Albert, Arras, Ypres. It seems overwhelming and maybe break it up into 3 trips or 4 over 4 years. That seems how you have done it.

        Please send more advice if you do not mind.

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      • The 19th Battalion became the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada shortly after the war and Herbert Fearman became Lt Col from 1924-1926. He then was reinstated for 2nd WW to recruit and train the A&SH. He met the Queen on a few of her visits too. Unfortunately, he passed away 7 years before I met my wife in 1981. But I came to know the current officers and dined with them just prior to and after my Viny 2017 trip. The 100th anniversary. Did you get to that too? So my trips by bus were just highlights. We were out in hotel in Lille, walked the historic village, got to the Last Post at Menon Gate but missed Pascheandale altogether. What a shame. So I either join a tour such as Norm Christie’s or do it like you did. Id imagine you get more efficient each year as you get to know the routes and have more background each time. I probably should not expect much first trip. I can spend 2-3 hours in cemeteries no problem. I like to reflect deeply and I find it very emotional experience. On my trip, we had maybe 20 minutes in a few.

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      • Yes I believe I watched it. But it never says how to plan the trip, where to stay. He was doing small groups of less than 10 on a few tours a year. Not inexpensive but might be easier as I would not have to do any logistical planning.

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  3. Again Paul, thank you for the Canadian content! Much appreciated! I’m sure you know of Canadian historian/ tv producer Norm Christie. I learned of Canon Scott and his son in Norm’s videos, For King and Country. Highly recommended.

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    • Yes, I knew Norm when he was with CWGC in the U.K. and later when he was at Arras. He’s done such a lot to commemorate the CEF.

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  4. Paul I absolutely loved this episode. The last few minutes especially made the hair stand up on the back of my neck when you talked about Scott and his search for his son. As a relative novice at WW1 history its not just what you say, it’s your way of speaking that does just as much to keep me listening, it’s easy to understand without being simplistic, yet detailed without being complex, reverent without being melancholy. Thank you.

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    • Thank you, Matt. I really appreciate your comments and I’m glad the podcast and the stories shared in it have been of interest.

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  5. Another great episode…..the country over which the Tyneside’s advanced was a death trap..but of course the barrage worked! Well done and look forward to the next one….

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  6. I agree with Matt. Paul’s delivery is exceptional and must have some form of notes in front of him, but he reminds me of the great historian AJP Taylor who in the days of grainy black and white TV used to appear from behind a screen and just stand and talk without notes or autoqueue because he had a great grasp of his subject.

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  7. Wonderful podcast. You very much take us there — at a pace and tone that sets the scene. You touch on such a variety of information: people, places and events. I will get the book written by Scott. And I would like to try the train you mentioned.

    I have a memory of Albert that pops in my head regularly — of a statue, I believe a Sikh, holding his saddle, which reminds me — as you mentioned — of the cross section of men throughout the Somme, and the horses. Thank you for the Canadian content as well.

    A big Canadian Fan
    Elizabeth Hoyle

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