Now: Bullecourt and its memories of the Great War
I had the privilege of visiting Bullecourt and Arras with my mother and children in 2009.
During our visit we were lucky to meet a local figure who had collected reminders of the war from the fields and countryside around Bullecourt, and he was equally delighted to meet family of one of the tank crews. He took us to visit his collection which was housed in the barn at the end of his garden, and which has since been made into a museum which takes his name: Musée Jean et Denise Letaille. Angus’s name can be seen there on a list of those who died in and around the Bullecourt area.
In April 2010, a plaque was unveiled beside the church in memory of the tank crews of D Battalion, Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps. A piece of caterpillar track from one of the destroyed tanks lies in front of the plaque. In this area of France the memory of those who died here, far from home, is still alive and visible; memorials and monuments abound in all the villages, and farmers are still digging up shells and parts of equipment every time they plough their fields.
It is difficult for us, in these days of constant communication and easy travel, to imagine what it was like at that time for these soldiers to be so far from home and so completely disconnected from their families, with only the occasional postcard or letter for news. Visiting these battlegrounds far from Oban made me realise how hard it must have been both for these men to have come such a long way, in such circumstances, and for their families who were left with neither body to bury nor grave to visit; only second-hand information on the death of their loved ones. Only 100 years separates them from us, but we really do live in a different world now.
Lest we forget.
Sheila Lamont is from Oban and all her family lives here. She read French and art history at Edinburgh University and married a Frenchman whom she men during her year of study abroad. They lived in the Aix-en-Provence region and moved to Reims in the north of France in 1998; their three children have dual nationality and all speak English with an Oban accent. Sheila comes home twice a year and you might bump into her this week.
The church at Bullecourt.
Arras war graves and memorial.