Summer visit to France

Jock Logan got his very first passport at the tender age of 86 and achieved a long held ambition to visit some of the WW1
memorials in France and Belgium this summer. The last time he went abroad no passport was needed as he was called up for active service in 1942 at the age of 18.

An important part of his visit was to Dud Corner Cemetery and The Loos Memorial, the resting place of Harold Newell, the uncle of his late wife, and a native of Gotham whose name is recorded with pride in both The Memorial Hall and the Church.

Harold was 27 years old when he volunteered in September 1914 and was put into the 13th Service Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was part of the new army of volunteers never having been in the trenches or under fire before.

He arrived in France on 13 September 1915 and was marched from St Omer to the front line in the Loos area – marching 20 miles over hree successive nights – arriving in the battle area on 24 September 1915 as a reserve division to the main attack starting on 25 September 1915.

During the afternoon and evening of 25 September 1915 the reserves were pushed piecemeal into various areas to reinforce the line.

The attack was renewed on 26 September 1915 and by 8am the reserves had reached advanced positions facing the enemy’s line. The 13th Northumberland Fusiliers were ent to relieve 46 Brigade at Chalet Wood and Hill 70 near Loos. Harold died in this area on 26 September 915 – he had been in France for only 13 days. Harold has no known grave, he is commemorated on Plaque 20-22 of The Loos Memorial, one of 20596 dentified casualties. Jock and his family left a photograph of him along with flowers and a note in the isitors’ Book to mark the visit.

There is an enormous range of memorials to the fallen of WW1 in France and Belgium and the visitor experience is exceptional, with beautifully kept cemeteries, excellent visitor centres and fascinating museums. The Canadian memorial of Vimy Ridge is a spectacular, soaring monument overlooking the former battlefield – now a calm landscape so reminiscent of England. Thiepval, the emorial which commemorates the men of the British Army who fought in the battle of the Somme between 1916-1918, is a massive arched structure covered in housands of names. Nearby is the smaller Ulster Tower dedicated to the men of the 36th Ulster Division who fell during the major offensive of 1916. There is a café whose owner showed visitors the relics from the war which still turn up in nearby fields when ploughed.

A final stop for Jock and his family was Ypres and the famous Menin Gate. Its walls are covered with the 55,000 names of the men who fell in the area between 914-1917 and whose bodies were never found. Every night at 8pm the last post is sounded – the night Jock ttended this moving occasion it coincided with a remembrance ceremony for the Canadian Divisions who had fought in the war. Also during the week he stopped riefly at Arras, Baupame, and Albert where he enjoyed the extensive underground museum depicting the veryday life in wartime trenches.

Reflecting on the trip he said “I am glad I made the journey to France and saw what I did. It was well worth making and made me think a lot about the sacrifice these men made – they had it much harder than I did”.

Kathy Logan