Jan 2016

Returning to the Somme some years later.

It does not matter who you are, with so many involved in the Great War there will almost certainly be a family connection to somebody who served. Today with the Internet it is relatively easy to find out more information on just about anyone with the mere click of a mouse.
It was a request to take a family party out to pay respects to my wife’s great uncle who had been killed on the Somme that was going to lead me back to exactly the same spot that I had visited all those years before. Lt Colonel Beresford Gibbs was killed leading his battalion of the 3rd Bn Worcestershire Regiment in a desperate attack aimed at pinching out the Leipzig Salient on the 3rd September 1916. Having visited his grave in Blighty Valley cemetery, I took the family party up the road from Authuile and turned down the track that leads to the memorial at Thiepval. This is the spot were he was killed. We walked the same stretch of plough and I could not help noticing how much less of the ‘iron harvest’ than there had been fifteen years before.
Beresford Gibbs medals are still on display 100 years later in a family home alongside another brother, The Reverend Edward Gibbs who was killed in November 1917 when chaplain to the 1st Bn Grenadier Guards. Stories of other members of both my own family and my wife’s were going to reveal more fascinating and poignant stories….more to come.

Next time, Talking about battlefield photography

Beresford Gibbs 001
Photo of Beresford Gibbs
Beresford Gibbs 002
Beresford Gibbs Grave in Blighty Valley Cemetery
map worcesters attack
Map showing the Worcester's attack

My first visit to the Somme

My first visit to the Somme was sometime in the late 1980’s. Although I had been a soldier my knowledge of the First World War was to say the least sketchy. I did not know if I had relatives who had fought there.( My grandfather spent his war fighting von Lettow-Vorbeck in what was then German East Africa, but that is another story). I was immediately struck by the beauty and scale of the open rolling landscape similar to that of Salisbury plain and it was while walking across the plough from the Leipzig Salient towards the memorial at Thiepval that the idea struck me of the possibility of a landscape book first came into my head. In those days the ground had not been picked clean by souvenir hunters, and it was possible to see empty cases, shells and other objects every yard or so that had been turned up in the plough. It was going to be another twenty years before I revisited the Somme ….

To be continued.

Photo: - Poplar trees behind Thiepval in the snow

Battlefields 13-1256-40

Silent Landscape

Between now and publishing it is intended that both Simon and James will talk about their respective views on how the book has evolved, some the technical aspects of the photography as well as to keep you up to date on progress of the book.
This week has seen a meeting with the publishers Helion to agree on a publishing plan and dates, location for book launch.

Bellow - aerial photograph of the Somme
Mesnil Ridge and Knightsbridge Cemeteries Mesnil-Martisart

.Battlefields 14-1485-1-2