A century since Amiens: ‘I’ll never know the terror of trench warfare’

CATHARTIC: Seventy-year-old Ross Riddett is visiting France 100 years since his grandfather was shot in the Battle of Amiens on February 21, 1918.
CATHARTIC: Seventy-year-old Ross Riddett is visiting France 100 years since his grandfather was shot in the Battle of Amiens on February 21, 1918.

One hundred years since his grandfather Alfred was shot in the leg during the Battle of Amiens, Ross Riddett is travelling to the Western Front.

While pondering his voyage, Mr Riddett’s mind conjures images of torrid trench warfare in the build up to the August Allied offensive, lead by Lieutenant General Sir John Monash – an offensive which eventually lead to the end of the war.

When I came home I felt guilt, and in hindsight it was a war we shouldn’t have been in.

Vietnam War veteran Ross Riddett

“Having experienced war and the fear, it will be cathartic,” Mr Riddett said.

“I’ll experience the place where my grandfather would have felt a lot of terror and camaraderie.

“I can relate to his experience, but I’ll never know the terror of trench warfare.”

The 70-year-old Verona resident is travelling to France this week with his wife Marianne, with the couple joining their daughter Robyn, who lives in London.

Ross Riddett's grandfather Alfred (pictured) was shot in the leg during the Battle of Amiens. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

Ross Riddett's grandfather Alfred (pictured) was shot in the leg during the Battle of Amiens. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

“Robyn doesn't know much about the background, so it will be good for her to learn all about it,” he said.

Like many returning soldiers, his grandfather kept much to himself, not sharing his wartime experiences with those closest to him.

“I would love to talk to him, and have him fill in the details of his experience, which unfortunately I can’t do,” he said.

Mr Riddett has had a difficult time finding records of the exact movements of his grandfather during the battle, but he does know he spent time recovering from his injury in England before arriving back in Australia almost a year later.

“After returning home he named his war service home in Melbourne after Amiens,” Mr Riddett said.

Mr Riddett was conscripted in 1970 to fight in the Vietnam War, a war he now believes should never have happened.

“When I came home I felt guilt, and in hindsight it was a war we shouldn’t have been in. The Vietnamese see our war as a blip on the screen, because they’ve spent so long fighting people off,” he said.

While in Vietnam Mr Riddett was lucky not to be shot in the leg himself, this time by accidental friendly fire during a patrol.

“He was court-martialed but got off because his weapon was faulty,” Mr Riddett said with a laugh.

“I think he must’ve had a worn safety, so when he walked it shot right near my foot.”

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