Back when I still lived in South Africa, a couple of my jobs required car trips to small towns to check on stores or visit cooperating agencies. Several of these out-of-the-way places happened to be near old battlefields of the Boer War, so I’d try to set aside a day or two to visit them and “touch history” (my shorthand expression for such activities). Over time, I visited Spion Kop, Paardeburg, Ladysmith, Mafeking and Majuba. I also got to see a couple from the earlier Zulu Wars, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift (described in the movie Zulu) . I wrote about my trip to the last one years ago, but it’s buried in the archives and if I can find the thing, I’ll re-publish it sometime.
Anyway, one week from today is Memorial Day, and as always, it’s the day I remember my late grandfather Charles Loxton, who fought and was badly wounded at the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916. As the saying goes, it’s “where 25,000 men marched in; and one week later 2,500 marched out.” Here’s Delville Wood now:
..and as my grandfather probably saw it in 1916:
So #4 on my Bucket List is to visit not just Delville Wood, but as many old WWI battlefields as I can. Time permitting, it’s one of the activities I’d like to get done during my upcoming sabbatical in Britishland, because to see most of them would require a trip of only a few days across the Channel.
Mr. Free Market suggests that I do my pilgrimage during late November or early December, “…when the weather is foul and one can appreciate the absolute misery — the cold, the rain and the mud — that the poor infantry had to deal with.”
Sounds like a plan.