It must be said that the Armistice Day commemorations at Ovillers and La Boisselle are very special occasions for all who have the good fortune to attend. 2016 was no exception with many Friends having met for an enjoyable dinner the evening before at Corners Pub in Albert where final arrangements for the following day were set.
It is so encouraging that Armistice Day now engages the whole commune of Ovillers La Boisselle and that the number of villagers, Friends, and other visitors who take part seems to grow steadily. Everyone met at the French War Memorial in the centre of Ovillers where all were greeted by Le Maire,
M. Christian Bernard. The weather was cold and bright and sunny as we set off to process the cemeteries and memorials before moving across to La Boisselle to pay our respects there also. At each location a group of schoolchildren from the commune read a short passage as the gerbes and wreaths were laid. These occasions are always so moving especially when accompanied by our wonderful pipers, and this year was no exception. Claudie Llewellyn-Lejeune welcomed everyone as we took a short detour through the Glory Hole (L’Ilôt) on our way to the Tyneside Seat.
The traditional Vin D’Honneur at la Salle de Polyvantes took place before our own acts of remembrance at the Crater.
A very warm welcome was extended to all and the break provided an opportunity to sit for a while and chat, mutual friendship helping to overcome any language barrier!
This year as ever, a good number of folk then made their way up to the Crater. Vinny Felstead bore the Lochnagar standard and was joined by other standard bearers from theCommune. A school coach arrived just before the start and their tour leader was immensely grateful that the group of 50 or so young people could attend. Wreaths and gerbes were again laid, and prayers were spoken by our wonderful Chaplain John Pressdee. The ceremony was opened with the blowing of whistles and poppy petals were offered to everyone at the end, these being scattered as an emotive finale to the ceremony.
This year was extra-special as the new granite ‘Memorial to the Valiant Women of All Nations’, situated opposite the Nurses’ Bench, was unveiled and dedicated with Sue Robinson and Suzanna Green from Wenches in Trenches both attending. Their organisation fund-raised for this very worthy memorial, with Vinny doing a superb job coordinating its manufacture and installation on site.
Folk then travelled over to Mametz Wood for a short ceremony at the headstone of ‘First Friend’ Harry Fellows. Those who have attended will know this is always very moving in truly beautiful surroundings. Summer or winter, Mametz Wood is very special.
We ended our day at the German Cemetery in Fricourt where by chance we met a group of French travellers from Brittany. They joined us in laying a wreath and posy at the memorial stone there. Overall, a rewarding day travelling around with such good people; I would highly recommend it.