Battlefields tour: Emotional visit to relative’s grave moves reporter
PUBLISHED: 12:19 13 February 2015 | UPDATED: 16:41 13 February 2015
As a former history student and the co-ordinator of my team’s First World War centenary coverage, I jumped at the chance to go on the tour.
Having always wanted to visit the Somme, it was an incredible and poignant opportunity to stand where thousands of soldiers fought and died almost 100 years ago.
The tour was full of emotional moments.
Cpl Lee Phillips spoke movingly at the Tyne Cot Cemetery about what remembrance means to him, having lost comrades while fighting in Afghanistan.
We were all affected by his words, with some of us close to tears.
I also paid my commemorations at my great-great uncle’s grave.
Lance Sgt Sidney Stone, born in 1896 and a soldier in the 1st Battalion of the Cambridgeshire Regiment, is buried at Connaught Cemetery, in the Somme.
I knew his grave was there but, thanks to the researching skills and knowledge of tour guides Allan Wood and Terry Webb and soldier Paul Barnes, I now know he was a soldier pre-war, who did basic training in Suffolk, began the war as a private and arrived in France on February 14 1915.
Sidney’s battalion arrived the next day and he came under the command of the 82nd Brigade.
He transferred to the 118th Brigade 39th Division, which fought near Richebourg on June 13 1916, at the Battle of Thiepval Ridge in September and at the Battle of the Ancre Heights.
The latter culminated in the successful capture of German strong point the Schwaben Redoubt, on October 14 – the day of Sidney’s death.
Allan estimated that Sidney is buried less than a quarter of a mile from where he was killed.
As I lay a cross with my name on at his grave, the rest of the party stood in silence, which only added to the emotion I was feeling.
As someone who even connects to war poetry and any soldier’s story, it was a difficult moment.
The tour was an unforgettable experience, with laughs among the more poignant times, and all of us have come away with new friends.