POPPIES AGAINST A BLUE SKY, NORTHERN FRANCE: Poppies are widely recognized as a flower of remembrance. The poppy become a strong emblem remembrance due in large part to the famous poem, In Flanders Fields written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae who wrote the poem on May 3, 1915. As a Canadian traveler in northern France, it is impossible not to notice the ubiquitous flower. Most Commonwealth countries observe one or two minutes of silence each year on November 11th at 11:00 a.m. (eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour).
Photo illustration by John Ecker | Pantheon Photography
THIEPVAL BRITISH MEMORIAL, THIEPVAL, PICARDIE, FRANCE: Britain’s largest World War I memorial is found in northern France near Thiepval in Picardie. The structure was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Started in 1928, it was completed in four years and inaugurated by the Prince of Wales on July 31st 1932. The battlefield monument required extensive reinforcement to its foundations due to war-time tunneling. The memorial is reserved for missing or unidentified soldiers with no known grave. The Portland Stone piers bear the names of over 72,000 men lost in the Somme battles. Visitors may wonder why there are gaps in the stone between some names. This is because the names of soldiers whose graves were subsequently found are removed from the memorial.
April 17th is an important date in World War I history, so the date of this post is no coincidence. April 17, 1915 was the date of the British assault on Hill 60 when the Brits blew up several mines under German positions. It served as a turning point and was the prelude to the Second Battle of Ypres. This is also the date of the arrival of the 1st Canadian Division in France. On French soil for just five days, the Canadians were moved to the front lines where they found themselves in the biggest defensive fight to that point by Canadian troops. April 17, 1917 is also a momentous if not ignominious date for the French. After France’s disastrous Nivelle Offensive, French infantry started to mutiny in protest of the military leadership and trench conditions. By the time the mutinies subsided several months later, over 35,000 soldiers were found to be involved with 68 out of 112 French divisions affected. Fewer than 3,000 men were punished.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, with a Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm lens at 20mm, f25, 1/400th second, ISO 2000. Photo by John Ecker | Pantheon Photography
BEAUMONT-HAMEL, FRANCE, BATTLE OF THE SOMME, 1916. Click here for my story about Beaumont-Hamel. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography