In 1992 Avril Williams and her two children arrived at Auchonvillers and moved into an abandoned farmhouse. Over the past twenty-five years the family has renovated the farmhouse and it has become well-known as a popular venue for visitors to the Somme battlefields. Among the many regimental and other plaques on the wall was one left by my colleagues in the Military Police Association of Ireland, who were there last year.
The village of Auchonvilliers was renamed “Ocean Villas” by the British soldiers after they arrived on this part of the Somme battlefront in the summer of 1915.
Avril and her family named their farmhouse “Ocean Villas” and have expanded the site to comprise numerous educational facilities for visitors, including a venue for lectures, the museum and an orignal section of British trench.
This is a collection of rare and important militaria and memorabilia from the First and Second World Wars, gathered over many years by military historian and collector André Coillot. To prevent the collection from being dispersed Avril Williams purchased it in its entirety and has re-housed it in a refurbished building next to her guest house and tea rooms.
This plaque on the side of the rebuilt church at nearby Hamel remembers the men of the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment killed there on the first day of the Battle, July 1st, and the other Essex battalions who fought on the Somme in 1916. It is not far from Thiepval Wood where the 39th Ulster Division went into action.
This museum at Auchonvillers is the only military collection on the Somme battlefields which comprises First and Second World War artefacts. This museum was opened on 1st July 2008 by Major Tonie and Mrs Valmai Holt.