The day of the commemorations started early for three of the Ferry Crew. They had tickets to the Thiepval event and needed to be away about 5am for the park and ride by Albert Airport.
This made the decision to go to the Ulster Tower for the majority of us seem the best option. We could have breakfast in the hotel and then walk over to the station and get the train to Albert, where our shuttle buses would be waiting. No need for the park and ride. It would be less hassle for men but we had Claire and Elaine Constable in our team. Ladies are less likely to be enamored changing in a field.
As it was We got our tickets and the 0837 train to Albert. Strangely there wasn't another train until 1137 and that was cutting it fine to get the shuttles as they finished at 1200.
We had a few hours to kill before the first bus and there was plenty to do with displays etc. Plus the famous gilded tower that acted as a target for the German gunners and as a symbol to the French defenders.
At the Tower there was a little confusion where to sit, and sitting was never going to happen as despite few buses going ahead of us, there were no seats left. With the grass wet from days of rain, we ended up with the cardboard boxes left from the packed lunches handed out when we arrived. Not so bad for the men, but some of the old servicemen there were in their 80's and up and they stood whilst kids sat down on chairs. Not good.
|The Ulster Tower in sun|
|Pano of the battlefield between Thiepval Hill and the Schwaben Redoubt.|
The ceremony was very moving and the tales of the men and boys that had given their lives brought tears to the eyes.
None more amazing than that of Billy McFadzean (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_McFadzean) who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his selflessness that saved the lives of countless comrades when he threw himself on live hand grenades that had spilled from a box and this was before the assault had started.
We can never know what we would have done in his position.
The weather continued to be a pig, rain, then sun, then rain again. We got soaked to the skin.
And then about 40 minutes late the guest of honour HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived. The politicians from Thiepval didn't show their faces apart from Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, Our Prime Minister and the French President had cleared off!
Once it was all over and Charles and Camilla had chatted and left, the buses were brought up. It was very slick and we were on the 1705 train back to Amiens. Now dry with wet patches.
A memorable day.
We were back before the Thiepval Three and way before Ian and Paul who had gone to the Canadian ceremony at Beaumont-Hamel that startwd after our event, and also attended by Charles and Camilla.
In the evening we split into smaller groups and Shuttle One went our own way. Less beer more soft drinks as we had to ride back to UK the next day.
Another day over.