Buffnut's 2021 Tour of Great War Sites...And Other Animals

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My Day 3 started out rather differently. Having seen pretty much everything I wanted to see from my Ypres/Warneton bucket list, I elected to drive the 1.25 hrs to Waterloo since I may never get the chance to go there again. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.

I did have a couple of slight family associations with Waterloo, one being a Great x4 Grandfather who was a soldier in Wellington's army in Spain, 1810-1814. Also, Jim Gamble, my RFC/RAF pilot cousin, recorded flying over the battlefield in early 1919...so, clearly, intense family history interest for me here!!! :rolleyes:

For those who haven't been, Waterloo is a pretty big deal in Belgium. Aside from the huge monument on the battlefield, there's a sizeable museum and walks to other battlefield locations. The museum itself was...interesting. It took a very pro-Napoleon stance, citing that he was fighting against the oppression of the ruling classes. Unfortunately, they somewhat ignored the fact that he was a dictator who seized power in a coup. As dictators go, he may have been more benevolent than most...but I'm pretty sure he didn't really care about "the people" otherwise he wouldn't have plunged France into 17 years of warfare.

The museum did an excellent job of describing the equipment and the timeline leading up to the battle, but actual visualizations of the battle were largely missing, which makes comprehension of those complex chains of events hard to comprehend. There was also a rather splendid collection of Napoleon's belongings which was definitely worth a look.

The main feature dominating the landscape is the Lion's Mound, built 1820-1826 and marking the place where the Dutch Prince of Orange was wounded during the battle. One has to wonder how much destruction to the actual battlefield was wrought by creating this huge artificial hill...but it's such a dominant feature that it's very much there to stay.

The climb up to the top is a little daunting but I eventually made it:


And, just to prove it, here's a couple of views from the top. The first shows the Panorama in the foreground, a really impressive panoramic painting of the battle. Off to the left, the underground museum and visitors' centre is just visible:


Despite my grumbles about the mound defacing the battlefield, the views from the top are truly impressive. This shot was taking looking towards Hougoumont Farm which is about 1.4 km away from the visitors' centre. The pale footpath to the right of the image takes you to the farm, with a couple of notice boards en-route. It runs along a ridgeline that was a key British defensive position:


Here's a nice close-up of Hougoumont Farm. There is a museum in the farm but it's only open at weekends and on Wednesdays...so I missed the boat. :( The actual scale of the farm is pretty large. It's secured by a wall that's probably 200m long on each side...so not exactly a small residence.


En route back from the farm to the visitors' centre, the path takes you up to the British defensive ridge position. It's not something I'd like to march up in nice, neat, Napoleonic ranks:


And, just to be clear, no Abba songs were sung at this location and no sequins were worn during the taking of these photographs!
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After wandering around Waterloo, I found myself at a bit of a loose end. So I consulted a guide book that I purposely brought on the trip. If you're at all interested in visiting Western Front sites, I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's simply packed with dozens of little hidden gems to discover throughout the battlefields of France and Belgium. One warning, though...make sure you get the latest edition as it's been revised and expanded several times over the years.


Casting about, I discovered that Mons wasn't too far away...so off I popped. If any location can be said to bookend the Great War, it's Mons (at least for the British participants...the French, Belgians and Germans obviously will have different perspectives). It was the site of the first major engagement by the BEF in 1914 and it was liberated by Canadian forces on 11 November 1918.

The main military cemetery in Mons is at Saint Symphorien and is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has very similar numbers of German and British Commonwealth burials. It was established by the German Army in 1914 and, after the war, Germany erected a granite obelisk in the centre with the inscription "In memory of the German and English soldiers who fell in the actions near Mons on the 23rd and 24th August 1914." It's also an incredibly pretty location, with multiple levels and corners to discover:




The quirks of Mons occupation coupled with the inclusion of both British Commonwealth and German soldiers in the cemetery led to a couple of unique features. Firstly, Saint Symphorien holds what are generally accepted as the first and last British soldiers killed in action during the Great War. Pte John Parr of the Middlesex Regt was killed on 21 August 1914 at the ripe old age of 17. He'd enlisted in 1912 aged 15 but had lied about his age. Pte George Edwin Ellison of the 5th Lancers was killed at 0930 on 11 November 1918. He'd served throughout the Great War and, in fact, had fought at the Battle of Mons in 1914. John Parr and George Ellison face each other in the cemetery. Ellison left behind a wife and son:



One grave I missed was that of Canadian George Lawrence Price who is the last recorded British Commonwealth soldier killed during the Great War at 1058 on 11 November 1918. Sorry I missed him!

Saint Symphorien was also the burial location for the first Victoria Cross winner of the Great War:


Just a few yards away is the first recipient of Germany's Iron Cross, Oskar Niemeyer:


And here endeth the 3rd Day.
Moving on, Day 4 was a long day of driving from Lille to Amiens but was very productive. I had planned to spread visits to locations over Saturday (Day 4), Sunday and Monday but the weather forecast for the latter 2 days wasn't promising so I decided to cram as many of the outdoor locations as possible into Day 4.

First stop was the site of Bethencourt Aerodrome but I'll cover that in a later post about Jim Gamble.

I dearly wanted to visit "Deborah" at the Cambrai Tank 1917 museum but, alas, it only opened at 1330 and I simply couldn't wait around. If you haven't heard of "Deborah", she's the only survivor of the tanks that took part in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. After the War, she was tipped into a hole, covered over and forgotten about. Philippe Gorczuynski, a local hotel owner, grew up playing in the fields nearby and collecting bits of war debris that he and his mates found. That interest grew until one day he interviewed an elderly lady who'd been a child in the area just after the Great War. She remembered a tank being buried but couldn't remember exactly where. Intrigued, Phillippe dedicated a huge amount of time and resources to try and find the tank. Unlike the Spitfires in Burma, the tank actually existed...and it was recovered in 1998. It now has its own dedicated museum, located adjacent to the graves of 4 of her crew who were killed when she was knocked out on the first day of the battle. Here's a pic of "Deborah" being recovered (source: tank100.com), followed by one in her new home that opened in 2018 (source: Cambrai Tank 1917):



Next stop was to visit another relative, Able Seaman Frank Lee who was killed in September 1918. It's only in the past few years that I learned of the Royal Naval Division in the Great War. At the outbreak of war, Britain found itself in the rather odd position of having more Royal Navy sailors than it actually needed, so it formed the Royal Naval Division to fight on the ground in France. It later became the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division under the War Department as opposed to the Admiralty...although the RND persisted in RN traditions (signifying passage of time with bells, "going ashore", remaining seated for the loyal toast etc.), much to the disgruntlement of the Army.

Frank belonged to the 63rd Machine Gun Battery, part of the Divisional Troops. He enlisted 13 November 1915, was drafted for the BEF on 11 November 1917. Initially assigned to the 190th Machine Gun Battery in January 1918, he was moved to the 63rd on 1 March 1918. He was killed on 27 September 1918 on the opening day of the Battle of Canal du Nord. He's buried in Quéant Road Cemetery but that wasn't his original burial site. During the War, soldiers were often buried where they fell, which explains why so many graves were lost given the destruction meted out on the land during the years of fighting. After the War it was decided to move as many of the remains as possible into established cemeteries, and a Graves Concentration Committee was established, with teams operating in France and Belgium to undertake this task. For example, on 11 November 1918 there were only 71 graves in Quéant Road Cemetery but, following the Armistice, it was expanded and now holds more than 2,200 graves. Frank Lee's grave was one of those that was relocated into Quéant Road Cemetery..

Here are a couple of pics of the cemetery, followed by one of Frank's headstone:




And here's a rather poor photo of Frank himself, courtesy of a family member. His "cap badge" is actually the RND shoulder title:

Francis Lee Portrait - Royal Naval Division.jpg

Luckily, the CWGC entry for Frank included the Graves Concentration Report which included the map reference for his original grave. He'd been buried alongside 6 other soldiers who all apparently died on the same day. I mentioned TMapper previously as a way of translating British WW1 map references into GoogleEarth locations. For reference, the National Library of Scotland also has digitized copies of British Great War trench maps that can be viewed online for free or downloaded for a fee; simply google National Library of Scotland trench maps and you'll find it. Here's a screenshot from the TMapper application showing the location of Frank's original grave location, just outside the village of Les Moulins near Inchy-en-Artois:

Francis Lee Original Grave Site.png

With such information available, it seemed churlish not to visit the location...and it proved to be one of the best experiences of the trip. I drove south through Les Moulins and found the right turn that would take me to the grave site. Unfortunately, there was a no-entry sign because it was a private farm. I figured the odds of meeting anyone were slim to non-existent; if I did, I hoped my schoolboy French would help me explain why I was there, which might garner some sympathy.

As I drove up the lane, I saw a small, silver car sitting on the road to the left. "Uh-oh!" methinks, "That's probably the farmer." Undeterred, I pressed on and stopped at the T-junction next to the site. The silver car followed me, pulled up behind my car, and an old French man wound down his window. He confirmed he was the farmer and wanted to know why I was on his land...also, he spoke zero English which made this doubly entertaining. I explained, in my very poor grasp of the French language (aided by GoogleTranslate, I hasten to add) that a relative of mine had died near hear and I was trying to find the location. I showed him the GoogleEarth location from TMapper but he seemed to think I was in the wrong location and should be looking further northwest near L'Hirondelle River (you can make that out on the above image just north of the grave location). Eventually, I was able to point out the T-junction on the image and confirmed that we were standing there, and showed him L'Hirondelle on the image....and the light bulb came on and he realized I was in the right place.

The farmer asked about my relative and I showed him the photo of Frank above. He also asked if they moved his body, and I told him about Quéant Road Cemetery and showed him the pic of Frank's headstone. At that point, his whole demeanour changed. Having at first been (rightly) suspicious and mistrustful, he suddenly became much friendlier. I asked if I could take a picture of the grave site and he warmly agreed, saying I could take as much time as I needed. He then got back in his car and drove off with a beep of the horn and a hand waving out of the window. It was a lovely exchange and I'm so glad (a) I was able to explain the importance to me of that little corner of his land, and (b) he was so receptive to welcoming a stranger on his land to pay respects to a fallen relative. I probably spent 30 mins talking with him, struggling to overcome the language barrier and other obstacles...but we got there in the end. The result is this rather mundane photo but which is special, not just because of Frank but because of the (eventually) friendly experience I had with that French farmer. The corner of the brown earth field to the left of the track is the actual marked location of the grave site per the original map reference:


More to follow from my Day 4 adventures later.
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The next stop on Day 4 was an unplanned detour that resulted in an unexpected discovery.

I decided to head over to Givenchy to see the 55th (West Lancashire) Division memorial there. A number of family members served in that division, including Jim Gerrard MM previously mentioned, so it seemed fitting to pay a visit. The memorial marks where the Division, a Territorial formation, made a powerful defensive stand against the German advances generally known as Operation MICHAEL.

By way of background, Operation MICHAEL was Germany's all-in attempt to win the War in the spring of 1918. With America entering the fray in late 1917, the writing was on the wall, strategically speaking, for Germany. Once America mobilized, there was no way Germany could win. In what Germany probably saw as good fortune, the Russian October Revolution of that year took Russia out of the War which freed up tens of thousands of German troops from the Eastern Front to join the fight in the west. The move and resultant operation marked the resumption of manoeuvrist warfare after 3.5 years of relatively static trench warfare.

Here's a map (Source: Wikipedia) showing the extent of German advances during Operation MICHAEL. Givenchy and Festubert, right at the bottom of the map, were where the 55th (West Lancs) Division was located. Attacked by 3 German divisions, the 55th held strong even though the Portuguese division to their left pulled back, leaving the 55th's left flank exposed. After a week of continual fighting, which drew in more German forces and effectively blunted the entire offensive in the region, the 55th Division was relieved by the 1st and 3rd Divisions having suffered somewhere between 3,120 and 3,870 casualties.


Here's the memorial cross in Givenchy, with a couple of other pics showing details, including the Division motto that appears on the cross, as well as on the corner markers of the base:






Right next to the 55th Division memorial was a surprise bonus, a smaller memorial and monument marking one of the War's unique events: the award of the Victoria Cross to Sapper William Hackett of the 254th Tunnelling Company. Hackett was the only tunneller recipient of the VC during the Great War.

On 22 June 1916, just before 0300, the Germans exploded a large underground mine (the Red Dragon mine) beneath the British trenches as a precursor to an attack. Hackett, together with Thomas Collins and 3 other Sappers of the 254th Tunnelling Coy were underground digging their own shaft to mine the German trench positions. The force of the Red Dragon blast collapsed the British mine, trapping the men. After 24 hours of digging through the earth and broken timbers, a relief party created an access hole to reach the trapped men. Hackett helped 3 of his mates through the hole but then the earth started sliding in, filling the rescue hole. Hackett could easily have followed the 3 other men but he refused to leave Collins who had been seriously injured, saying "I am a tunneller and must look after the others first." The rescue hole continued to get smaller but, despite repeated pleas from the rescue team, Hackett refused to leave his comrade. Eventually, the gallery collapsed and, although the rescue party worked strenuously for a further 4 days, they couldn't reach the 2 men.

Most of the British tunnellers were miners. They understood the dangers of working underground and the unpredictability of earth movements. Hackett well knew the nature of the sliding earth as the rescue tunnel closed in. He knew his chances of survival would be minimal and yet he stayed with his wounded comrade. Their bodies remain, some 4o feet below the field in front of the memorial.



I rather liked the reverse of the memorial. The moles at the base are a nice touch...a fitting tribute for tunnellers:

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Next stop on Day 4 was the Pozieres Cemetery and Memorial where another relative is recorded with no known grave. The location has an impressive frontage on the main road between Baupaume and Albert.


The amount of time, effort, and detail that went into some of these CWGC sites really is impressive. For example, at Pozieres there are some detailed, evocative carvings flanking the top of the archway depicting a flag-draped casket with a soldier's pack, rifle and helmet on top. Most visitors probably don't even see them but the detail is there:


For those who haven't visited a CWGC cemetery before, they all have a built-in alcove with a metal door, in which is held the list of named individuals present in the cemetery, together with a visitor log where the public can record their visits with comments. At most such cemeteries, the list of names is a single volume. This is the list of names at Pozieres - 4 volumes:


Pozieres isn't a particularly large cemetery with Inside the cemetery, with just (yeah...just) 2,758 gravestones. However, the surrounding Memorial wall contains a further 14,657 names of soldiers with no known graves. Each panel in the Memorial contains about 180 names, and the walls of the cemetery are lined with panels between the pillars. Note that this number of names is in addition to all the names at Menin Gate and Tyne Cot, and explains why the registers pictured above run to multiple volumes.


My relative is Tom Lee who served in the 12th King's Liverpool Regiment. He was killed near Cugny, France, during Operation MICHAEL in March 1918. Unfortunately, Cugny was too far away for me to visit the general area where he lived, despite the fact that the 12th KLR War Diary lists the locations of the various Companies on the day he was killed. Tom is in good company on the Memorial wall as there are 3 VC winners also recorded without known graves. Here's Tom's panel with his KLR mates, plus a close-up of his name:



And here's the man himself, again courtesy of a relative. It's a REALLY poor quality image, probably a screen grab from a microfiche of a local newspaper. However, I'll take whatever I can get:

Thomas Lee (14600) 12th Bn King's Liverpool Regt.jpg

At each one of the cemeteries, I do take a few moments to look at other graves, some of which have touching commemorations of the soldier. Phrases like "Our beloved only son" or "For my boy, from Mother" are not uncommon. Here's just one example of many seen over the course of the trip. It reads "Husband of Margaret, Only Son of C & A Ward, Dearly Loved, Our Hero. If Serjeant Ward and his wife didn't have any children, then that's the end of the Ward family line for that family, like so many of the men buried on the Western Front:


Finally, I found taking this pic difficult. It shows 3 graves that were added to the cemetery just in the past week. Soldiers' bodies are still being found on the Western Front every year. These 3 are all, sadly, unidentified, but at least they now have a resting place.


Here's the CWGC news release about the recent burials - 13 in total in the Pas de Calais region, which includes Pozieres:

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My next stop on Day 4 was to visit the area where my Great-Great Uncle William Pountney was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. Bill was quite old for a soldier, being 34 when he enlisted on 1 September 1914. He was another volunteer who signed up before conscription...seems to be a common trait with lots of my family members.

Bill was posted to the 9th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers and spent the next 10 months in the UK (the 9th RWF was only formed on 9 September 1914...officially AFTER Bill was posted to the unit!). On 12 October 1914, he was promoted to Acting (Paid) Lance Corporal but responsibility clearly didn't sit well with him because he asked to be reduced to Private in early January 1915. On 19 July of that year he was shipped off to France. The New Year of 1916 was eventful, perhaps in a good way, as he was admitted to hospital for a month, I think for haemorrhoids, followed by a further month in a Convalescent Depot at Rouen and yet another month at the Infantry Base Depot at Etaples. Methinks he may have been swinging the lead a wee bit. Regardless, he was back with the 9th RWF in late March 1916.

Bill's brigade was selected as a reserve formation for the Battle of the Somme, which kicked off on 1 July 1916. The 9th RWF War Diary describes the unit's actions while they sat in the relative comfort of the rear:

At 10.00 p.m. the Battalion left its billets and proceeded to a preliminary position of assemble in a hollow immediately west of the railway, south of the main AMIENS-ALBERT Road at the latter town. There, the Battalion bivouaced [sic] for the night June 30th​-July 1st​, and at 10.30 a.m. proceeded in its turn to the trenches on the TARA-USNA line some 1,000 yards east of the town.

I pored over the relevant trench map to see if any features matched the description of "a hollow immediately west of the railway, south of the main AMEINS-ALBERT road at the latter town." The following area jumped out at me as clearly matching the description. It could be the area slightly further south but that seemed to offer less protection as the area was narrower than the circled area.

Possible Location of 9th RWF, 30 June-1 July 1916.jpg

I found the same area on GoogleEarth and it hasn't changed that much:


Since I was in the area, I had to have a look. It was pretty easy to find and fits the description rather well. Am I certain Bill was there just prior to the Battle? Absolutely not, but it's certainly a very likely candidate given the terrain. Here are a few ground-level views taken from the same location - not a bad place to hide away. The towers for the railway electric power lines are visible in the first image, showing how the elevation of the railway helped provide additional obscuration and protection for the troops in this position:



After the first day, it was clear things weren't going well for the British. German defences were far stronger and more resilient than expected. With the front line forces suffering considerable casualties, it was time to call on the reserve formations, including Bill's unit. Per the above War Diary entry, they moved forward about 1000 yards east of Albert and took up positions on the "TARA-USNA line" Heading east from Albert, the main road rises quite markedly to a pair of hills, the Tara south of the road and the Usna north of the road. In reality, they're little more than a continuation of the same ridge line but they were differentiated on maps at the time so who am I to argue with the map makers? Here's another portion of the trench map showing the Usna and Tara hills quite clearly in the centre, together with their relative position to the German trenches defending La Boisselle:


The 9th RWF probably took up positions west of the hills, in the valley between Tara-Usna and the town of Albert, to avoid being seen and to limit exposure to direct fire. Coincidentally, the Tara-Usna valley area is about 1000 yds from the original bivouac position shown previously.

The 9th RWF, in concert with the 9th Cheshires, was ordered to attack La Boisselle on 2 July but the logistical challenges that plagued the Battle of the Somme continued. The front trenches were so crowded that it proved impossible to make good progress towards the jumping off point. The War Diary notes that the Battalion "only reached the craters - which had been formed in the German defences the previous morning - by daybreak on the 2nd." It's likely "the craters" refer to mines that were blown up on 1 July, the most significant being the Lochnagar Crater which is still there...but you'll see that in a later post. Lochnagar Crater was off to the right of this image, which is perhaps the route the 9th RWF followed into the front line positions and thence into La Boisselle.

The approach from the valley to the front-line trenches would have been protected but this is what the view towards La Boisselle looks like today. The Tara and Usna valleys lie behind the camera position, but are now built over by Albert's urban sprawl, so it's hard to accurately gauge the lie of the land from the top of the Usna/Tara hills:


Congestion in the front line trenches continued, and it was 1600 by the time Bill's unit went over the top with orders that "the objective [be] gained regardless of the cost." Those are never words that ANY military person wants to hear. The 9th RWF, 9th Cheshires and 6th Wiltshires went forward. "Owing to the congestion of troops in our front line system of trenches and to the havoc wrought by hostile artillery the previous evening, it was found impossible to launch the attack on a regular frontage, and it was entirely due to the handling by their leaders of the various Companies...that the advance to the German line resulted in so few casualties." Once in the thick of the fight, grenades were thrown and considerable progress was made, with the attacking force reaching and consolidating at the church in La Boisselle by nightfall.

At some point in the battle, Bill Pountney took a gunshot wound to the chest (Total 9th RWF casualties for July 1916 were were 3 officers and 42 ORs killed; 10 officers and 240 ORs wounded). He was evacuated through No.34 Division Collection Station at Dernancourt, then to No.45 Casualty Clearing Station, at Vecquemont (sitting on the train line from Albert to Amiens), before ending up at No.11 Stationary Hospital at Rouen. He was repatriated to the UK on 5 July and was admitted to the Lord Derby Hospital in Warrington, less than 10 miles from his home. He recovered remarkably quickly--because "the wound healed without interruption--and was discharged from the hospital on 25 July. He spent a further 3 weeks, probably on leave recuperating, before going back to the Army, serving in a couple of different RWF Battalions. He returned to France in October and finally made it back to the 9th RWF in November 1916.

On 9 December he was appointed Acting LCpl (Unpaid) but that promotion didn't last long. He lost his stripe on 31 January for being drunk on duty....a little New Year's cheer to keep warm, perhaps? He spent a few weeks home on leave in January 1917 and I can't help wondering if his wife, Elizabeth, asked him to apply for a safer job that the infantry because, on 9 March he joined the 354th Electrical and Mechanical Company, Royal Engineers. A month later he officially joined the RE with a new regimental number. While this may at first seem a much safer option, in reality the Elec-Mech Coys were responsible for all the electrical and mechanical stuff necessary for trench warfare: lights, generators, water pumps, etc. If the electric wires were cut by shellfire, it was the Elec-Mech REs who went out to fix it. This work probably suited Bill nicely because he'd been an engine driver pre-war.

As of 15 April 1918, Bill's service record notes the following technical abilities based on his time with the RE:
  • Firing and Driving Steam Engines, and Making Repairs to Same: Very Superior
  • Driving Gas or Oil Engines, and Making Repairs to Same: Skilled
  • Driving Petrol Internal Combustion Engines Including Procedure in Case of Breakdown: Skilled
  • Working a Pumping Station: Skilled
  • Engine Erecting: Proficient
  • Qualifications in an Iron Trade: Rough Fitter
  • Working an E.L. Blast Including Repairs to Lining etc: Proficient
  • General Qualification: Skilled
Bill survived the war, being discharged on 17 February 1919, and returned to his wife and their 2 sons. He was medically examined but never claimed any disability despite the GSW to the chest and all the other hardships he must have faced. Bill passed away in 1943 and I can't help wondering that the Great War did, eventually, shorten his life. However, he was clearly a tough old duck.
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After La Boisselle, I made one additional airfield-related stop on Day 4 but I'll cover that in my last post. The final stop of the day was in Amiens instead, and was related to WW2...plus it had nothing to do with my relatives, so you can all relax! :)

Back in the Neolithic era when my wife was foolish enough to marry me, we lived in the small village of Great Paxton which was about 8 miles from RAF Tempsford, the main operating base for Allied agent drops into occupied Europe. It was while we lived there that I came across the story of Percy Charles Pickard who was a Lysander pilot at Tempsford and undertook a number of agent drop missions into France. I later learned that he transferred to fly Mosquitos, probably my all-time favourite aircraft, and that he lost his life in what was later (incorrectly) titled Operation JERICHO to blow holes in the walls of Amiens jail so that resistance fighters who were held there could escape.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the Amiens raid. Firstly, it was never called Operation JERICHO. That title came from a post-war fictional film based very, VERY loosely on the story. The actual mission title was the much less prosaic Ramrod 564. Also, despite being the senior officer in the raid (he was a Group Captain at the time), Pickard did not lead the mission. Pickard had planned to lead the operation but changed his mind, ceding leadership to Wg Cdr I.S. Smith. The reason for the change was pretty straightforward. The operation order dictated that the last aircraft should attack the prison itself if the walls were not successfully breached. Pickard did not want to order any of his crews to undertake such a distasteful task, so he took the job on himself, even though it put him in the tail-end charlie position, and hence at greater risk of being shot down.

Here's a photo of Pickard taken just before the mission departed:


The attack was made at low level, with 11-second delayed fuses on the bombs. The puffs of smoke visible in the amazing photo below give away the location of where the bombs fell, but they have yet to explode.


The raid was something of a proverbial curate's egg...good in parts. The walls were breached and 255 prisoners escaped but many escapees were shot as they ran from the jail and 182 were recaptured soon afterwards. The eventual death toll from the raid, including a large number who were actually killed by the bombs, totaled 96. Resistance prisoners who made good their escapes were later able to expose over sixty Gestapo agents and informers, severely affecting the German counter-intelligence effort. Ordinary prisoners, not recaptured or giving themselves up, were informally amnestied by the French police and left alone. Pickard and his navigator, Flt Lt Bill Broadley, never actually bombed the prison. They were shot down by a marauding Fw190.

Here's a photo showing the breach in the wall:


And here's a pic of the main gate for the jail which looks very similar to the above gate:


To the right of the gate is a memorial to the Resistance fighters killed by the Germans during the escape:


The French locals recovered the bodies of Pickard and Broadley from the burned wreckage of their Mosquito. They are buried in the CWGC cemetery located in the Amiens St.Pierre Cemetery which is less than 500m from the gate of the jail. The CWGC area is situated opposite a French military cemetery. Here's the French area:


Literally across the street to the left is the CWGC section and contains both Great War and WW2 casualties:


Pickard and Broadly are located towards the back, within a row or two of each other. They were clearly two very brave men:



After Pickard's death was announced, moves were made to get him awarded the VC. The French Government even made representations. However, the proposals were turned down because he died on an "ordinary" operation. That seems a tad trite for my liking.

Pickard and Broadley seen sharing a smile just before the op....this was probably the last photo of the 2 of them alive:

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Great stuff. Note that, in the photos, Pickard is wearing the Dennison smock, given to him after Operation Biting, the Bruneval raid, when British Paras raided the radar station and captured vital parts of a Wurzburg, the Op being lead by ( then) Major John Frost, with Pickard in command of the flight of Whitley para-dropping aircraft.
hen Terry and I visited the cemetery at Oosterbeek for those killed in Market Garden operation a few years ago it was the graves of soldiers that had no details at all, not even a unit badge that really got to me.

There are sooooo many...

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The French have a simple cross with the term "Ingonnu" and that's it. Simple, yet poignant.

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