Jackie Sutherland and her husband George accompanied the Somme Battlefield Tour. During one of the evening meetings she very movingly told this tale.
“Some years ago, George took me on my first visit to the Somme, in particular to the scenes of action along the Front Line on the first day of the battle, 1st July 1916. I had little idea of what to expect – at that time, as far as I knew, no relative had been involved in Europe during WW1. We visited many sites – White City, the Sunken Lane, Newfoundland Memorial Park, the Hawthorn Redoubt mine crater, Sausage Valley to name but a few. At each site, we would walk up a lane or across a field to a high point where George, with the aid of trench maps, would explain the positions of the opposing sides and the outcome of each encounter.
For me, the most intense experience was at the position of the British front line opposite a German salient known as the Quadrilateral, a scene of prolonged fierce fighting and very many casualties. On the day of our visit there, the field was bare, yet to be sown later that spring. As we walked back across the ploughed field, George, some distance from me, saw me suddenly stop and stand motionless, my face ashen white. In the ground in front of my feet, I saw four young soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder, helmets on, smart khaki uniform, their boyish faces looking up at me. I couldn’t move.
Their thoughts came to me ‘It’s alright. We know you are there.’
Unable to move for fear of walking over them, their thoughts came again-
‘Don’t be concerned – we’re already dead. We know that you are here to remember and respect.’
After some time – I have no idea how long – I slowly stepped forward, and walked back to the car.
It was a very intense and deeply moving incident, and indeed, some days passed before I felt able to tell George exactly what I had seen. Over the years I have told very few people about this event, but on the recent KOSB Somme 100 trip, in the company of soldiers – retired, serving and of the future – this memory was as vivid as ever, and perhaps worthy of recounting.
For many, 2016 has been a special year,as commemorations have been held to mark the 100th anniversary of Britain’s involvement in WW1. As a child, I remember my parents talking of their experiences in Singapore during WW2. Since then, there have been so many other conflicts, from Northern Ireland to the Falklands, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Korea, from Bosnia and Kosovo to Kenya and Sierra Leone; sadly the list goes on. Wherever in the world men and women have died or been injured in war, we will remember them.”