BILL Holdsworth, who was invited to Amiens to commemorate the centenary of the famous World War 1 battle, writes of his experience.

"THE intense hot summer has gone. Now quiet rain washes the large open square and wide steps that lead up to the high entrance gates of the white stoned soaring majesty of Amiens 13tth century Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dames, the largest in the whole of France. On Wednesday, August 8 heavily armed French police allowed a thousand selected visitors to pass through the imposing entrance.

My son Nick and I were amongst the guests in Amiens to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War and the Battle of Amiens. Like many other guests we were invited to honour my father who had fought with the Yorkshire Light Infantry in all the major battles from 1914 until the spring of 1918 when after being gassed four times he was invalided out of further action.

At 4.20 am, just before light, on August 8, 1918, some 100,000 Canadian, Australian and British infantrymen, with the support of 340 tanks and hundreds of aircraft attacked through dense mist that took the entrenched German army completely by surprise and advanced some 20 miles into the open undulating cornfields that stretch into the horizon as if on an a central American prairie. A scene that would have gladdened the hearts of the American 131st Infantry regiment who were attached to the British 58th Division when on the following day they attacked a strong German defensive position rising steeply from the marshes of the river Somme. The support of the French army on the flanks of the attacking forces was critical to maintain momentum, but after three days of fighting offensive operations were wound down as battle conditions changed. This victory happened due to a total new way of thinking. It had taken over three years to break away from the rigid belief of trench warfare that was so ingrained in the minds of Generals on both sides.

Within three months the war on the Western Front of Europe was over, Church bells rang out across the fields of many lands as they will do so again on the 11th November 2018. Unbeknown to the millions of mothers who cried for their lost sons the war was to reignite 20 years later and the German armies learned a deadly lesson that became known as a ‘BLIZ-KRIEG’ where massed tanks and aircraft were the deadly scythes that created new killing fields across Europe.

Within the Cathedral as the voices of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain soared upwards into the sun-kissed fan-vaulted roof and trumpets sounded flag parties from both old allies as well as from the German army stood to attention as wreaths of remembrance and a reaffirmation of friendship were laid.

His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge spoke of the bonds of friendship that unite all our nations. It would be interesting to know if our Prime Minister, Theresa May, talked after the event with the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, about the words of the Bishop of Amiens, Monseigneur Olivier Leborgne who said, “Our presence here, remembering the senselessness that penetrated the First World War, is also a resolute commitment to peace….the sense of remembrance is always turned towards the future, which calls for our responsibility.”

As my son and I drove back through the old battle fields of Northern France and Belgium torrential rain poured out of a mist-laden sky. From the ground rose the acrid smell of cordite. Across these same lands English and many other armies have fought each other since Norman times: The Battle of Agincourt, 1415. The Hundred Years War with Joan of Arc along with Spanish, Dutch, Austrians and Germans. The European Union has brought us together in peaceful and economic co-existence. We now face new dangers; the impacts of climate change along with new hates to overcome. We wondered aloud why at this point of time in our history that the supportive British should leave Europe and think they can stand alone!