On 29th March 2010 I went to the battlefields of the Somme. I visited many places around the Somme area where thousands of allied soldiers were killed.
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme is a major war memorial to 72,090 missing British and Commonwealth men who died in the Battle of the Somme of the First World War and who have no known grave. It is located in France near the village of Thiepval, Picardie.
The memorial, which dominates the rural scene, has sixteen piers of red brick, faced with Portland stone. It is 150 feet (46 m) high, with foundations 19 feet (6 m) thick; required due to extensive wartime tunneling beneath the structure. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial was built between 1928 and 1932 and is the biggest British battle memorial in the world. It was inaugurated by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) in the presence of Albert Lebrun, President of France, on 31 July 1932.
At the time of the unveiling in 1932 there were 73,357 names were commemorated here; the slight decrease to todays number (72,090) represents the identification of bodies since then resulting in soldiers no longer being ‘missing’. Some additional names have however also been added (omissions in the original list of commemorations).
Each year on 1 July (the anniversary of the first day on the Somme) a major ceremony is held at the memorial. There is also a ceremony on the 11 November, beginning at 10:45.
The Beaumont-Hamel Memorial
The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial is a memorial site dedicated to the commemoration of Dominion of Newfoundland forces members who were killed during World War I. The site is situated 9 kilometres north of Albert, France near the town of Beaumont-Hamel in an area containing numerous cemeteries and memorials related to the Battle of the Somme. The preserved battlefield park encompasses the grounds over which the Newfoundland Regiment made their unsuccessful attack on 1 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme was the regiment’s first major engagement and during an assault that lasted approximately 30 minutes was all but wiped out. Purchased by the people of Newfoundland, the site is the largest battalion memorial on the Western Front and the largest area of the Somme battlefield that has been preserved. Along with preserved trench lines, there are a number of memorials and cemeteries contained within the site.
For lunch we headed to a small town in France called Albert. You can see some photos of the place below.
The Lochnagar mine was an explosive-packed mine created by the Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, located south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département of France, which was detonated at 7:28 am on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Lochnagar mine, along with a neighbouring mine north of the village known as the Y Sap mine, contained 24 tons of explosives. At the time these mines were the largest ever detonated.
The explosion was witnessed from the air by 2nd Lieutenant C.A. Lewis of No. 3 Squadron RFC:
The whole earth heaved and flashed, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up in the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet. There it hung, or seemed to hang, for a moment in the air, like the silhouette of some great cypress tree, then fell away in a widening cone of dust and debris.
Some of the British infantry waiting in no man’s land were struck by falling debris and one man, having braced himself in a trench, had his leg broken and later required amputation.
The Lochnagar mine lay on the sector assaulted by the Grimsby Chums Pals battalion (10th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment). When the main attack began at 7:30 am, the Grimsby Chums successfully occupied the crater and began to fortify the eastern lip which now dominated the surrounding ground. However elsewhere the attack at La Boisselle went badly and infantry sought shelter in the crater, particular those who had been attacking up Sausage Valley to the south of the village. The prominent crater drew fire, including from British artillery although eventually it was learnt it contained sheltering infantry and the British shell fire ceased.