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The Champion’s death

Here's the story of a man, the story of a drama, the paroxysm of horror occurred in both sides of the front line. It's the story of a soldier characterized by his sense of duty, courage, patriotism, heroism, but also by his innocence face to the war and all this endless wave of violence. Whereas it was a must that this conflict found out an issue, these men have made the ultimate sacrifice. Here is then Cecil Healy's life ending the heroic athlete, narrated by one of his brothers in arms :

« At dawn, in the day of August 29th 1918, the troops were ordered to move forward and make the crossing of the Somme in order to reach this famous Mont Saint-Quentin. All of our attack was more or less held in respect by intense fires of the machine guns from the opposing villages, coming from the front and the left flank. Now, everything was confused. A large number of wounded was regrettable. That is why Cecil Healy and another officer decided to move their troops ahead and clean the coppice holding them in front. They reached it safely, cleared it. They began to run along the ground on top, back behind this one. It is there that he met the death then. He accurately died in front his troupe, while searching for the machine guns, and his fearlessness gave the opportunity to the enemy to reach him as a target. A machine-gun bullet reached the back side of his neck, he collapsed. Lying on the ground, while being wounded, a piece of shrapnel reached him at the chest. A stretcher bearer who rushed to him and put a bandage, was himself seriously wounded at his turn . Healy was breathing with a great difficulty and it is now for his life that he was fighting. But an hour later, he died. He died between 7 and 8 :00 am,in the morning of the 29th of August 1918.This was his first and his last feat. Actually, he represented a big loss for his battalion and he promised to be a very good young officer. For the first time, under an atmosphere of fire thunder, he demonstrated an extraordinary calm and a total courage. Most of his men talked about him since then, focusing on his coolness and courage under fire. He died as a true soldier, in leading his men and facing the enemies. He handed down to the battalion a name that will be cherished by all those who knew him, such as his record in the athletic world that can always be recalled back with feelings of admiration and respect »

He was buried in the fringe of "the woods of the sword", near Biaches at a 3/4 of a mile in the north of Biaches and 1 Âľ mile in the west of PĂ©ronne. His body was later transferred to Assevillers New British Cemetery.

By Bertrand FARENEAU,

crédit photo:

- Grave of Cecil Healy near Sword Wood : Australian War Memorial

The place of the tragedy

At the background, right in the middle, lies Mont Saint-Quentin, theatre of the clashes at the end of the month of August 1918. The days preceeding this violent battle, Germans methodically retreated around this place, particularly in the communes of Les Halles, Omiecourt-les-Cléry and Cléry-sur-Somme much more in the left. Obviously, the place was not chosen at random.From Mont Saint-Quentin, the German army had unstoppable views of all the southern shore of the Somme. You have to imagine that at the level of the trees located in the centre of the photograph, a steeply slope goes down to the river Samarien. The river is thus well below of this place at about 700 m. The place is dotted with wood of unequal sizes including the wood of the sword, the wood of the city... Inside of these woods, German soldiers took position. They have machine guns and heavy weapons with which they will carry out a real massacre among the Australian troops. Well below, all alongside "the Somme" edged with an adjacent alignment of very impressive trees, a thick vegetation spreads out. These trees are, moreover, still present today, some dead and heavily damaged, and could be perhaps the remains and the only survivors of what was the battle of Mont St. Quentin, a century earlier. On the other side of the Somme, in the villages of Cléry and halls, the Germans installed an impressive amount of guns. They are patiently waiting and will shell blind everything which could be located on the opposite bank. The Australian troops will therefore come from Assevillers, Flaucourt, Herbécourt, recently released, walking on this long cleared tray and having to rush in this immense battlefield, steep and exposed. They are going to be slowed down first by the troops taking position in the Woods. It will be therefore, necessary to clean these woods even before planning to cross the Somme. At the same time,the artillery settled in different spots around the Somme will take advantage of the while to show its fire power. So,It is under this fire downpour from all parts that Cecil Healy and his troops will have mission to dislodge the opposing troops out of these woods. According to a Healy's companions testimony, it's when ending to clean one of those places, that Cecil Healy by climbing the base of this wood, in order to clean another one, will be once hit by a burst of machine-gun fire, before being deadly wounded by a piece of shrapnel which will touch his chest . During an hour, Cecil Healy will fight to keep his life but he will eventually lose what will be his last challenge.

By Bertrand FARENEAU,

crédit photo:

- Panoramique : ©bfareneau

crédit photo:

- Monument aux morts d'Assevillers : ©bfareneau

Commemorations in Septembre 2018

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Sommaire du dossier Cecil Healy...

Cecil Healy before the war

Preface by David WILSON

Who was really Cecil Healy ?

Cecil Healy and the Crawl Stroke

Cecil Healy at the Olympic Games

Cecil Healy, the lifesaver

Cecil Healy, the brave

The Soldier

From the pool to the battlefield

Healy came in France

The school officer

The False Death

The Drama

♦ Cecil HEALY map ♦