MAMETZ CLASSIC CAR RUN
Huw Morris of Swansea University proposed a classic car run to Mametz
Woods to coincide with the Centenary of the battle in which soldiers of
the Welsh Regiment were pitted against the German troops that had
entrenched themselves in the large woodland next to the village.
The trip struck a chord with a few of us in the club and so Sally and I
were joined by Howard and Alison Spence in their TVR as well as David
and Gay Evans in their Jaguar XJS. In all there would be 14 cars making
the journey, including ex-members Mark and Alison Francis in ‘Gareth’
the Herald. The oldest car on the run was a little Morris called Jemima
from Haverfordwest. Simon, her owner for the last 45 years, was raising
money for Prostate Cymru along the way as well as carrying a plaque
from the 14th Signals Regiment which would be placed on the monument
when we got to it.
Meeting up outside the George in Mumbles on the Tuesday morning,
cars were lined up to represent the ranks of soldiers before we too set off
for France. The route took the cars along the old roads to Cardiff before
using a bit of the M4 to Bath and lunch at the aptly named pub, the
George, in Bathampton. From there we took a leisurely run to
Stonehenge where we took time out to visit the stones and the visitor
This is as near as
you get these days.
All the way from Wales by logs???
From there it was down to Portsmouth for a meal and on to the overnight
ferry to Caen and our first stop at the Café Gondrée, the first building to
be liberated on D-Day, where Madam Gondrée opened up early to give
us all breakfast after being evicted from the ferry the Mont St. Michel at
the crack of dawn.
The original Pegasus Bridge has been replaced by an exact replica, other
than it is wider to accommodate modern trucks, with the original now on
display in a small museum on the other side of the river. The museum
also opened early to allow us to visit them. Not the sort of co-operation
you would get in this country unfortunately.
It was now time for the drive across France to our base for the tour at
Nancy. A good but pleasant run through the hot countryside of about 200
miles. Our little convoy of three got separated en-route and we ended up
arriving at the hotel on our own, after a possible photo session with a
French Speed Camera. They are only about three feet tall and hidden in
the shrubbery on the verges, not very sporting at all.
Thursday was the centenary memorial service at the Mametz woods in
front of the Dragon memorial, which overlooks the woods in the
direction of the attack made by the Welsh soldiers. We had to go by
special bus to the service as cars were not allowed in the town for
security purposes, and we had to be there before all of the dignitaries.
This meant sitting in the 39 degree sun for a good few hours, although
they did come around with chilled water to stop us from passing out. At
least we did not have to wear a full ceremonial uniform, unlike the band
and the regimental units.
They were HOT!
At the end of the service the various wreathes were laid, including one
from the Welsh government laid by Carwen Jones. As proceedings were
wound up, the mayor of Mametz invited everyone present to come back
to the town centre for refreshments. No small undertaking in view of the
number people present. I could not see the mayor of Swansea making
such an invitation to so many people. We did go back to the town but
with so many people swamping the small town square, we all decided to
head back to the hotel and have a picnic lunch in the sun.
The hotel owner asked us to line the cars up for a photograph outside so
they could put it on their website. That’s when the auto-ballet took place
trying to get the best positions for the cars; we did manage it in the end!
Huw and Gwenda do
All together for the last time.
Tomorrow, Friday, would see all the gang returning to Caen for the ferry
home, with the exception of David & Gay, Martin & Maureen and Sally
and I. We were all staying on, David and Martin would be heading off on
an extended holiday roaming around Normandy on Saturday morning
and Sally and I would be staying in the hotel until the following Monday
so that we could explore this area in a bit more detail.
With a day left together we all decided to go the monument at Theipval,
where the main memorial service had been held for the centenary of the
battle of the Somme. It is a huge memorial towering above the
countryside which can be seen for miles around. Designed by Sir Edwin
Lutyens, it contains the names of the 72,194 officers and men who fell in
battle but who have no known grave.
In the afternoon we were shown around an aeronautical and vehicle
collection owned by a gentleman whose factory is just around the corner
form the hotel.
Missed the runway
A Hurtu car made in the
Luckily it was a boys only tour, so time was not of the essence and we
had a really good look around with our enthusiastic French guide who
wanted us to see everything but spoke no English – Interesting n’est pas?
We stayed in the hotel for a last meal together before David and Martin
and the wives left in the morning and after the meal we all supported the
bar for the rest of the evening.
All in all it was a well organised trip by Huw, more so when you
consider it was his first attempt with no knowledge of what would be
involved or how much effort is involved in these sorts of events. He is
already planning another trip next year to Flanders, details of which will
be available shortly for anyone who is interested.