Thursday, 20 December 2007

Grave matters on the Internet

For various reasons Frances and I found ourselves at the Australian War Memorial with a couple of hours to spare on 19th December. After having a squizz at the T E Lawrence meets the Australian Light Horse (as it turns out after 3 years fighting the same people from different directions) we had enough time to start one of their guided tours. It was highly excellent and strongly rated for any of you who have some time to spare in a North Canberra-ish dircetion.

One of the points the guide made was that all known Australian Dead are listed on the brass panels in the rememberance area. But I noticed that East Africa wasn't listed as one of the areas covered in the plaques out in the courtyard. So, knowing that there are two dead Australians buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Dar es Salaam I decided to check them out to see if they were listed.

To my slight surprise, and great pleasure, they were listed. There were slight inconsistencies in the listing (I suspect the original burial sites were shown rather than where they are now) which I passed on to the Memorial. They replied very promptly that they were researching the matter. To help them I had enclosed the two photos to the sides of this.

At the Memorial I had also scanned a commercial map of the Somme battlefield to see if I could pick up a reference to a village we had camped at in 1997. While camped there I had gone for a run and passed a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery which made sense of all the lumpy dirt and fishponds around the village. Several years later similar thinking made me realise why there were a lot of round ponds beside the train line a couple of hours North of Hue in Vietnam.

However, I couldn't remember the name of the village so resolved to look it up when I got home. It turned out to be the village of Aubers and the Battle of Aubers Ridge in 1915 appears to have been one of the greatest stuff ups of WWI. Yes, I know Haig set a pretty high standard, but this seems to have have been one of his more extreme efforts at incompetence (many of the ponds in Aubers would have marked the site where deficient British shells killed British soldiers for example). Anyway:

  • back to the War Graves people and they give directions on how to find the cemetery; then
  • off to Mr Google-Earth; and
  • here is an aerial view of the cemetery (through the help of Mr Gmail)!

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