When I visited the Western Front in October 2013 I spent a significant amount of time in and around the area in which the Battle of the Somme took place. The land which was once a churned mess of mud, blood and bodies has mostly returned to farmland but you can still see the scars of the trenches across the landscape and map the Allied lines using the CWGC cemeteries as “dots” to join the lines up.
The land may look healed but it is not. Like a wound that has closed over with shrapnel still inside, every so often it pushes another piece to the surface. The fields still yield a harvest of metal and unexploded munitions, the bodies of the dead, and the smaller accoutrements of war. Including these:
These are among the few items I bought back from my visit that were not books or postcards. Both of them were found in the fields around the Ulster Tower WWI Memorial, on Thiepval Ridge.
The one on the left is a button from a British uniform and although it is badly corroded you can still make out the lion and unicorn. The one on the right is an officer’s metal pip that would have been sewn onto his epaulet to denote rank. It is in far better condition than the button but you can still see the discolouration around the edges from where it has lain in the ground.
As for the more sinister metal harvest, this article in the Telegraph, published the summer before I went to Somme, gives a really good overview of what living within the legacy of WWI really means.