Somme confusion. It’s an uphill battle explaining the name

Chez Piddens.

Alice: It’s pretty lame, you’ve got to admit.

Wes: Who? What?

Alice: Chipilly. It’s pretty lame. Five generations of Piddenses running around on Chipilly for over a century, and we still don’t know why Reg called it that.

It was a sign.

Wes: Well, we’ve tried. It’s not our fault anyone who knew the answer is dead. Let’s invent our own explanation. Who’s gonna argue with us?

Alice: See this? This is me shuddering at the mad muckings-about you’d come up with for an explanation.

Wes: I’d make it … semi-plausible.

Alice: Oh, sure. But it’s a shame, that’s all.

Google Chipilly Australia. I bet you maybe found three things: a village in France, an avenue in Engadine and book called The Chipilly Six. Big deal.

But it was a big deal to Wes Piddens. His great uncle Reg selected Chipilly, before it was Chipilly, back in 1910. Reg and his brother, Ern, went off to WWI and did their trenchy Over the top! Digger thing in the Somme. Reg’s battalion, The Fighting Fourth had occasion to do their thing near the village of Chipilly.

When Reg made it back from the war he named the place Chipilly. But why?

Reg never married. Maybe there was a woman over there? (Alice’s preferred theory). Maybe Reg was there on the day they called the war off. Maybe it’s where he lost a good mate. But they were all just maybes. Reg died in 1941, Ern in 1963. Wes’s Gran didn’t know.

Apparently, Johnny Ham asked Reg once and got the answer, It’s a place in France.

But here’s the thing. When Australia bristles with farms, localities and streets called Passchendaele, Bullecourt, Ypres, Pick a battle etc, why is there only one Chipilly (besides Chipilly Avenue)?

Later,

Alice: Hey, check this!

Wes: What, what, what?

Alice: There’s a new book, The Chipilly Six.

Wes: Huh? Sounds like The Famous Five, or The Underwhelming Seven.

Alice: No, it’s history. (Reads) Unsung heroes of the Great War.

Wes: Maybe Reg is in it.

Alice: Yeah. Maybe we’ll get an answer. I’ll buy it for your birthday.

A book so good you want to eat it.

And she did. And Wes devoured the book by lunchtime.

I don’t want to go all spoiler on the author, Lucas Jordan, but here’s the general gist.

The Germans have been holding Chipilly Spur with a whole shirtload of machine guns and mowing down any Allies who get within a distant cooee of the high ground. Jack Hayes, a young Aussie soldier, who has just heard he can go back to Oz on leave, decides to do some (AWOL) hunting in the wrecked village for a few souvenirs to take back home. He spots what could be a viable sneaking route up the spur, and moseys back to tell the Brits about it. The Brits, tied up with regulations and orders, say ‘No can do’.

So, Jack and his mate nick back to the Aussie trenches, pick four men to join them, sneak up Chipilly Spur and proceed to rip through the Germans like radioactive corn through a sitting goose. They capture a bunch of them, then report back to the Poms, saying, “There ya go, carry on, chaps”.

The head Pom says, ‘Bloody marvellous! You blighters will get VCs for this.’

But that’s not what happens. Although word of the audacious stunt spreads through the Aussie trenches like wildfire, the Poms take credit for winning the battle, Aussie General Monash takes credit for issuing orders to take Chipilly Spur, and the Chipilly Six are forgotten by official history.

So that’s why the name Chipilly is so rare in Australia when it really should have popped up everywhere. At least Lucas Jordan has set the record straight, but Wes and Allie are no wiser as to why Reg called his farm Chipilly. Maybe word of the Chipilly Six’s bold Aussie have-a-crack-ery had spread to his trench and it inspired him when he got back home.

Wes’s folks, Lovey and Jeannie, actually visited the original Chipilly, but found it bore no resemblance to their Chipilly. They checked out the British memorial statue of a soldier with his dying horse, then repaired to a cafe for a cool drink.

They selected two Cokes. Jeannie took hers outside, leaving Lovey to do the business.

He, espece de foutu voleur. Vous devez payer pour votre boisson! (Hey, you bloody thief ! You must pay for your drink!)

Eventually Lovey joined her outside.

‘What was she saying, Lovey?’

‘I, ah, erm… I think she was saying something like, ‘How can we ever repay you brave Aussies for liberating France?’

‘Isn’t that sweet?’

A lesson to us all.

Bullgoose.

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