As the centenary of the commencement of World War I is marked around the world, as well as Remembrance Day to commemorate the end of the war, I remember discovering the story of Hamel, a tiny village in northern France. The first bridge over the Fatchen Northern Expressway north of Adelaide is the Hamel Bridge. Every time I pass it, I wonder how many other motorists have any idea of what it commemorates. The Battle of Le Hamel in 1918 marked the beginning of the Allied push eastwards to break through the Hindenburg line in the Somme Valley in northern France.
The little village of Le Hamel lies in the low rolling hills of the Somme Valley, surrounded by rich farmland with pockets of forest, with other small villages very close by, including Hamelet, Corbie and Villers-Bretonneux.
The Battle of Le Hamel was led by General Sir John Monash, meticulously planned and completed in just 93 minutes in pre-dawn darkness. His methods became a model for other battles. This was the start of the Battle of Amiens, leading to eventual Allied victory.
The gentle French countryside carries a heart-breaking history, with more than 1000 war cemeteries from two World Wars. Visiting the Somme Valley is a sombre experience and a sobering reminder that the ‘War to end all wars’ did not do so. The current ceremonies honour past sacrifice, while everyone hopes for an end to wars, which never seem to achieve any lasting solutions to conflict. We don’t want any more stories like those of Hamel and the other battles of the Somme.