Chatteris legion members and their visit to the Menin Gate and service commemorate the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval Memorial

Chatteris RBL Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme Tour 2016

Chatteris RBL Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme Tour 2016 - Credit: Archant

Chatteris branch of the Royal British Legion once more set of on a visit to the Menin Gate for the last post ceremony and the service to commemorate the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval Memorial.

Some 29 members set off to Rouen in France (our first stop).

Tina Prior, legion member and proprietor of the Old Bakery tea shop, paid tribute to her Great Uncle LCpl Ernest Miller of the Suffolk Regt, who died of wounds on Aug 2nd 1916. Her visit to St Sever Cemetery in Rouen, she believes, may be the only member of her family to ever visit, although not certain, as her granddad was one of eight.

Although we did an EMR at the war memorial with the RBL a couple weeks ago- she stated that the visit and seeing his name of the final resting place was more special to her.

Additionally Becky Cooper and her children Josh, Molly and Harry also paid tribute to her great Uncle: Pte Robert Hall of 11th Suffolk Regiment.

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Youth members Molly, Ollie and Joseph can be seen prior to laying wreaths on behalf of the Branch and Chatteris Community at the Menin Gate in Ieper. The uniform was sponsored by a local business from Chatteris who do not wish to be named.

All the young people who participated in the trip, laid wreaths, attended in the ceremonies at cemeteries and monuments are congratulated on their conduct, their thoughtfulness and turnout they were a credit to their parents and themselves.

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Our standard bearer Mr Robin Lake was on parade throughout the tour and can be seen here participating in the Last post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.

Additionally Rob paid his respects to a member of his regiment: L/8088 Sgt Wells VC, of the Sussex Regt who died on the 25th September 1917 (Rob stated that it was an emotional discovery as he wasn’t aware of the existence of this hero).

From The Menin Gate (Saturday) we proceeded to the Thiepval Memorial to join in with the Sunday service and lay a wreath on behalf of the branch for those who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme; some 55.000 men lost their lives on that day and several soldiers from Chatteris are commemorated here.

Our chairman Norman Larke was given the honour of saying the exhortation and the service was conducted by Lt Col (Retd) Bill George, who currently works for SHAPE at Mons. (Norman and Bill are old friends and used to play hockey together representing the British Army in Germany, although neither was aware they would meet that day until just before the service commenced).

Pictures show Norman laying the wreath and our oldest tourer and member of the Branch: Arthur Elton ex RAF. He has some stories to tell from both Wars.

From there we visited the underground museum and spent a couple of hours coming to terms with the conditions and heroism of those soldiers involved with the Great War.

Having completed this part of the tour the next day saw us proceeding to Loos Cemetery to pay tribute to two other family members: Susie Wilkinson’s Great Uncle Frank Woods and Michelle Roberts: Great Uncle Hedley Thomas Hatch of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.

After Loos a trip to the Passchendale Museum was undertaken, another eye opener for those who have yet to see these sites and museums, it is a must for everyone.

Monday saw us making our way to the Vimy Ridge and the Canadian Memorial where the tour guides are Canadian citizens (students) who spend four months at Vimy acting as guides for the public, a trip down the tunnels ensured which once again tested our imagination.

Some of the tunnels have been closed this season due to the amount of visitors for the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Our thanks go to Leah Templeman for organising the trip and a special mention to all those who came along and made it a memorable occasion. We were accommodation in the Peace Village an Irish run upgraded hostel on the outskirts of Ieper in Belgium.

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