We continue in the area around Thiepval with visits to the Ulster Tower, Mill Road Cemetery, and the Thiepval Wood trenches, to end this photo report at the Ancre British Cemetery.
Thiepval seen from Hamel. Left the Ulster Tower.
The Ulster Tower has been build in 1921 on the location of
the German “Schwaben Redoubt”, ...
... a maze of trenches and machine gun posts.
(British army photo from the west).
Below from the park at the foot of the Ulster Tower:
a south-east to north-west panorama, in the opposite direction,
which gives an indication of the overview,
the German 26th Reserve Division possessed
from the Schwaben Redoubt.
The ploughed land in the foreground marks the location
of the first line trenches of the redoubt.
The wood on the horizon is the New Foundland Memorial Park
The trees in the valley belong to the Ancre valley.
View in the direction of Hawthorn Ridge and Hawthorn Crater.
View in the direction of Redan Ridge.
Teleview: the village of Hamel.
The only relic, left of the Schwaben Redoubt,
is this German Observation Post.
On the other side, on top of the hill, behind the Tower,
lies the Mill Road Cemetery.
Before we continue later on this page with our visit to
the Ulster Tower and it's Visitors Centre,
I show you a photo impression of my visit to
the Mill Road Cemetery, made in May 2010.
View south-west from the track upward
the former location of the Schwaben Redoubt:
Thiepval village (left) and the wood around the Thiepval Memorial (right).
The asphalt road (centre) used to be called in wartimes "Mill Road".
From the same track upward to the cemetery;
a view westward over the Ancre Valley
in the direction of Hawthorn Ridge (centre).
The Entrance to Mill Road Cemetery.
Mill Road Cemetery (called at one time Mill Road Cemetery No.2) was made during the spring of 1917, when the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line allowed the battlefield to be cleared. At the Armistice, it contained 260 burials, but was then greatly enlarged when graves were brought in from the battlefields of Beaumont-Hamel, St. Pierre Divion, and Thiepval and from former, smaller cemeteries in this area. There are now 1.304 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 815 Of the burials are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
A view south-eastward.
many headstones in front of the Cross of Sacrifice are laying flat.
The flat headstones.
I asked my old friend, Mr. Teddy Colligan, Custodian of the Ulster Tower, about the reason for this exceptional phenomenon of the flat headstones. Mr. Teddy explained to me, that below this particular spot on the cemetery there is still a German bunker of the Schwaben Redoubt, that slowly sinks more deeper and deeper into the bottom. This sinking bunker causes the instability of the headstones, which were from time to time falling down. The CWGC authorities decided then to prevent this and let the headstones on top of the bunker lay in a horizontal position.
I leave the cemetery to continue our visit ...
... to the Ulster Tower Visitor Centre and Thiepval Wood.
The Battle for the Schwaben Redoubt.
At 1 July, 1916, at 7.30 AM the Ulster soldiers attacked fom their first line in Thiepval Wood, the Schwaben Redoubt, or Hansa Stellung, on the other side of Mill Road, on that time occupied by units of R.I.R. 99 and R.I.R. 119.
Within 2 hours the 36th Ulster Division succeeded to overwhelm 5 lines of German trenches at the plateau around the location of the nowadays Ulster Tower and Mill Road Cemetery.
Order of Gen. von Soden of the 26th Reserve Division to Major Roesch (B.R.I.R.8) and commander of the 3rd group to counterattack the Ulster troops, occupying the Schwaben Redoubt, d.d. 1 July 1916, 9.55 AM:
“Enemy has forced his way into the Schwaben Redoubt. 2nd Battalion Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 8, with 1st Machine Gun Company and one platoon of the Musketen Company is subordinated to 52 Reserve Infantry Brigade. The Battalion is to move immediately, dealing with any enemy encountered, to the Ancre Valley and is to advance to the second position via Stallmulde (between Grandcourt and Miraumont). Sector South I to South III is to be occupied and held, with main effort on the right flank. 52 Reserve Infantry Brigade will be kept informed from here.
Freiherr von Soden.”
The German counter-attack was planned to be deployed by 3 groups: Group 1 under command of Major Präger, Group 2 under command Major Beyerköhler, and Group 3 under Major Roesch. These attack groups, consisting of units of B.R.I.R. 8, I.R. 180, and R.I.R. 119, attacked the Schwaben Redoubt from the north and the east at 16.00 hrs..
Alas at the end of the day, after 14 hours of fighting, the 8th and 9th Royal Irish Rifles, who penetrated into the Schwaben Redoubt and beyond, were forced to withdraw by their own artillery, by German machine gunfire, and fierce German counter attacks, back into Thiepval Wood. The progress of the Ulster Division on 1 July was
the most advanced of all the other British army units!
A view from just outside the hamlet of Thiepval, ...
.. from the marker on the period picture, “Crucifix”.
The Ulster Tower is an Ulster Memorial to commemorate
the heroic actions of the 36th Ulster Division.
In it’s well kept garden around it,
you will find a remembrance stone for Ulster Winners of a Victoria Cross during the Great War.
The friendly Mr. Teddy Colligan, Custodian of the Ulster Tower, ...
... would guide us through Thiepval Wood,
telling us the story of the Ulster 36th Division.
Mr. Teddy restored himself this toffee apple trench mortar.
Some other steel relics to be found at the recommendable Visitor's Centre of Mrs. Phoebe and Mr. Teddy Colligan.
In 2012, when the Colligan Couple unexpectedly prolonged their Guardianship of the Tower, we attended one of the many presentations of Mr. Teddy.
Mr. Teddy's open air lecture involves two students of a visiting high school class, wearing exact copies of the 1916 equipment. It gives us a fine opportunity, to observe their outfits in full colour instead of in black and white, as we are used to see on period photographs.
Mr. Teddy tells a class of Ulster schoolkids about the history of the 36th Ulster Division and their bloody contribution to the Battle of the Somme in his own vivid way.
Mr. Teddy explains how shrapnel shells explode in the air and drop off at high speed their murderous shrapnel balls.
This young guy is wearing the same uniform of a private as his great-grandfather of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers did in 1916.
The girls is of course wearing the uniform of a British nurse.
Mr. Teddy let this young man experience the suffocating choke of the gas mask, used in 1916. The filter of those days contained the dangerous asbestos, which caused after the war many soldiers suffering from severe lung problems.
These young adolescents were all eyes and ears, and they very impressed by Mr. Teddy’s presentation. I must admit: I was even impressed too !
On 1 July 1916 the Mill Road, left in front of the wood,
from Thiepval to Hamel and St. Pierre Divion,
was No Man’s Land.
Behind Connaught Cemetery, along the D73, the Mill Road,
where many Ulster men are buried, ...
Connaught Cemetery was begun during the early autumn of 1916. At the Armistice it contained 228 burials. It was then increased, when graves were brought in from battlefields in the immediate area and the following small cemeteries: Thiepval Village Cemetery, Thiepval Valley Cemetery, Quarry Place Cemetery, St. Pierre-Divion Cmty. No.1 ., Divion Road Cmty. No. 2, Small Connaught Cmty., Battery Valley Cmty., Grandcourt, Paisley Hillside Cmty., Authuile, Gordon Castle Cmty., Authuile, and Bluff Cmty., Authuile. The vast majority of the burials are those of officers and men who died in the summer and autumn of 1916. There are now 1.268 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. Half of the burials are unidentified, but special memorials commemorate two casualties believed to be buried among them and five buried in Divion Wood Cemetery No.2, whose graves could not be found. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
... is the entrance to the Private Property of Thiepval Wood.
Also for your own safety, you may enter it only under
the interesting guidance of Mr. Teddy Colligan!
A group of Archeologists, assigned by the Somme Association, ...
... is carefully excavating and restoring the former trenches and dugouts of the Ulster Division.
A period situation sketch of the trenches in Thiepval Wood.
The Ulster Division had dug their jump off trenches in the edge
of Thiepval Wood.
Elgin Avenue: a communication trench.
A carefully restored 1st line trench in the year 2007,
but not yet completely finished.
In May 2012 we accompanied Mr. Teddy again into
Thiepval Wood to observe 5 years later with also a different
camera the great progress of the restoration works.
The same restored trench as above, but now 5 years later.
The progress is obvious!
From their first line, here in Thiepval Wood, ...
...the Ulster soldiers attacked from this trench
and from saps like this one the Schwaben Redoubt, ...
... on the other side of Mill Road.
Another restored sector of a trench.
More sectors of trenches, which give us a good impression ...
... of the situation in 1916.
Mr. Teddy is explaining the difficulties of the archeologists,
when the rain floods the Somme soil.
Entrance to an underground dug out.
A mortar pit.
Remember: the progress of the Ulster Division on 1 July
was the most advanced of all the other British army units!
On the edge of Thiepval Wood;
a view to the hamlet of Thiepval, and ...
... to the Obelisque for the 18th Division.
When we leave Thiepval Wood,
I spot this view over Connaught Cemetery to the Ulster Tower.
On a rainy day in May 2010 we paid a visit to
the Ancre British Cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel.
The position of the Ancre Valley Cemetery seems far away, ...
... but in birdsflight it is only 1,3 kilometres away from ...
... the Ulster Tower and the Thiepval Plateau.
Ancre British Cemetery. Following the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line in the spring of 1917, V Corps cleared this battlefield and created a number of cemeteries, of which Ancre British Cemetery (then called Ancre River No.1 British Cemetery, V Corps Cemetery No.26) was one.
There were originally 517 burials almost all of the 63rd (Naval) and 36th Divisions, but after the Armistice the cemetery was greatly enlarged with many more graves from the same battlefields and from the following smaller burial grounds: Ancre River British Cemetery No.2, Beaucourt Station Cmty., Green Dump Cmty., R.N.D. Cmty., Sherwood Cmty., Station Road Cmty., and "Y" Ravine Cmty. No. 2. There are now 2.540 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 1.335 Of the graves are unidentified, but special memorials commemorate 43 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. There are also special memorials to 16 casualties know to have been buried in other cemeteries, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
43 "Casualties" are known or
"BELIEVED TO BE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY".
A grave of a private of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment,
and a grave of an able seaman of the Hawke Battalion
of the Royal Naval Division. (a Naval Infantry Battalion).
A view south-eastward into the direction of the of the Ulster Tower.
A teleview from the Cross of Sacrifice...
... at the Thiepval Plateau.
In May 2010 the Ulster Tower was in scaffolding
due to renovation works.
In May 2011 we returned from the Ancre Valley Cemetery
to the restored Ulster Tower via the hamlet of St. Pierre Divion, ...
... where a local inhabitant found his own way to remind us
of the German presence here.
From the Ancre Valley we follow the Mill Road upward ...
... to the renovated Tower.
This is the rear side of the cleaned Ulster Tower.
View of the rear side situation of the tower. Remark the trench and dug-out left. This is an exclusive and rare period photo of 1921 of the situation of the battlefield directly around the Ulster Tower.
This period photo is a present of my old friend, Mr. Teddy Colligan, Custodian of the Ulster Tower. Thanks, Mr Teddy!
At sunset we leave the Ulster Tower.
I close these impressions of Thiepval and Thiepval Wood
with a last view from the 18th Division Obelisque
at the western edge of the Thiepval Memorial Park
in the direction of Thiepval Wood and the Ulster Tower.
Continue to the next chapter: