Memorials, Museums and Cemeteries in the Somme Region

Today is the 11. November. In France and Belgium it’s a National Rememberance Day. Not so in Germany, where it’s a normal working day. Ironically carnival starts here today. But not everyone gets crazy about that.

In September 2022 I went for a week to France and visited the Departements Picardie and Pas De Calais where most of the Battle at the Somme took place between 1916 and 1918.

I had my base in the lovely little town of Peronne and made every day trips to museums, monuments and cementeries. This area seems to have more soldier graves than inhabitants. I would like to show you some of the photos I made there, as I guess not everyone will ever make it there. Peronne is only 600 kilometers away from my door. In the next days or weeks I will post more photos if you like them.

I planned to visit Thiepval first but on the way I saw a road sign and decided to change plans and follow that sign …

So my first stop was at the South African National Memorial Delville Wood in the little village of Longueval. And what an impressive memorial that is!

Behind the memorial is the Delville Wood Commemorative Museum, which is amazing!

Along the walk ways are bronce plaques with scenes of the South Africans in WW1 …

The museum has some small “appartements” full of informations, photos and memorabilia of the fightings at Delville Wood and German South West Africa (today Namibia) …

The museum is mainly about WW1 but it has also a small corner for the South African troops during WW2 and even the Korea War …

Opposite of memorial and museum, just on the other side of the street, is Delville Wood Cemetary. When I went there it started to rain. Not the only rain during my vacations …

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Just outside of Logueval I found the road sign for the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial, which is between some fields …

At the small parking lot is this plaque, which tells about the fightings in this area. The Silver Fern is really lovely made!

That should it be for the first impressions today. I hope you like it and I will continue here in the next days. Just have to prepare more photos.

Torsten

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Lovely pictures Torsten. It always amazes the thought and craftsmanship that they put into these memorial sites and how grand they look. When ever I have walked round them they really are just stunning and very thought provoking… And they always seem so peaceful… Looking forward to seeing some more.

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Very interesting photos and information.
It’s definitely a place I need to visit someday. My great grandad on my dad’s side fought at the Somme and numerous other battles. He lied about his age, was shot once, gassed but came out of the end ok. He later served in the Home Guard in WW2.

At secondary in the late 90’s our history teacher organised a trip to Ypres for a couple of days. We went to the battlefields, the surviving section of trench at Sanctuary Wood(very interesting to get down in them and experience what it was like) the Menin Gate War memorial and cemetery and Talbot House which was established in 1915 as a place for British servicemen to rest and relax. Very interesting and would definitely go back again if I could.

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Lovely tour of the museum and memorials so far Torsten- I find these memorial structures beautiful yet also humbling, which I guess is part of the desired effect.
I went to see the Menin Gate as a kid and I still remember standing there confronted with the names etched into it that seemed to go on and on- in such numbers it was hard to fathom. It made me think of my Great Grandfather who served during the war.

Thank you for posting these and I very much look forward to seeing a few more.

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Great pics,nice way to spend a day

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Wow! :astonished: Thanks for all your feedback, guys! Didn’t expect that.

My grandfather (born 1890) fought in France in WW1. But I don’t know where and what he did. He was so lucky to survive both world wars and died in 1971. I was far too young then to be interested in his story and have only vague memories of him. My mum was the youngest of 5 girls (poor grandpa … :grin:)

In 2012 I visited also Flanders and came to places like Ypres (fantastic museum, very touching!), Zonnebeke, Poelkapelle, Langemarck, Passchendaele, etc.) Unfortunately my comupter crashed in 2014 and I lost all photos :cry: So I have to go there again. Brussels is only 300 km away from here, Flanders another 100 km.

Right now I select more photos which I will show in the next days. Most likely I’ll start with Thiepval.

Have a great weekend, guys!
Torsten

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Beautiful yet humbling for sure. In Reforger ‘87, while working in a maneuver damage control office with US and German officers, a German Major took me and 3 others I was working with to Bergen-Belsen to visit and then to his home for dinner. It was very moving ……

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The next day I visited Thiepval. The tiny village of roughly 100 inhabitants is the synonym for the Battle at the Somme and the darkest day in british military history. Beside the memorial they have built an information center and museum. In the information center you get good maps of the area and of Northern France and Belgium where most of the monuments, museums and cemeteries are marked. That helped me a lot during my visit. Entrance to the new museum (since 2018) is 6 Euros. But you can buy a combined ticket for Thiepval and the museum in Peronne, which makes both a little cheaper. The museum shop has a lot of useless stuff for tourists (mostly from the UK). I just bought a coffee mug and a book about the fightings. The museum is worth a visit!

In a room of the museum stands a 1:1 replika of a Nieuport 17, flown by famous french fighter ace Capitaine Georges Guynemer.

This is probably the last photo taken of Guynemer alive in the morning of his last flight …

There are more rooms but I didn’t take photos everywhere. Some rooms are a bit dark and tell the story of the missing soldiers of both sides. You usually pass through the museum to get to the Thiepval Memorial of the Missing of the Somme. Really impressive! On the walls are listed over 72.000 names of fallen soldiers who have no known grave.

Behind the memorial are 600 graves, 300 british and french each. Most of the french soldiers are inconnu unknown …

As you can see, there are photos with different weather conditions. I’ve been there twice because on my first visit it was raining in torrents sometimes. So a few days later I came back when the sun was shining again.

I’ll continue the report later today …
Torsten

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It’s a very sombre place when you stand there in the quiet thinking about it. I went decades ago but it’s a place I wouldn’t mind revisiting.

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Great to see inside the museum there Torsten.

Thiepval has a close connection with Ireland and Ulster in particular due to the many soldiers from this part of the world who fought and died there.

The ‘Ulster Tower’ is the memorial for their actions during the war.

It is based on ‘Helen’s Tower’ which is located in the northern part of County Down on the Clandeboye Estate.

A lot of troops from Ireland trained in the area which is why the memorial looks the way it does.

The British Army also maintains a barracks in County Antrim named ‘Thiepval Barracks’.

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Thanks, John! Thiepval, I guess, is the most visited place in that area beside Vimy Ridge. But I wouldn’t call it sombre. Quiet yes, but not sombre. I was talking to so many guys from all over Europe. Most of them came from the UK. Some guys on their motor bikes told me, that they come to the Somme Region now for 10 years and every time they discover something new. Even some Germans were there, beside me.

Just about 2 km away from the Thiepval Memorial is the Ulster Tower. It was errected in memory of the 36th Ulster Division, which suffered heavy losses on the 1. July 1916. About 1 in 4 men was killed, injured, went missing or was taken prisoner. And as you can see it was pouring down again heavily …

Inside the tower …

If you follow the road another few kilometers you’ll get to this place …

The name stands for the terrible losses of the 1st New Foundland Regiment, which was trapped in machine gun fire right when they were out of their trenches on the morning of the 1.July 1916. After 30 minutes 86% of the men were killed, wounded or missing … The Caribou Monument is also very impressive.

There’s a path around the former battle ground and the earth still shows some scars of the fightings more than 100 years later. Here I stand on the opposite position, the former german line, in the distance you can see the caribou. Easy distance for machine guns …

The plague of the 29th Division, to which the New Foundlanders were attached.

Opposite to the Caribou Monument stands the memorial for the 51st Highland Division which captured Thiepval finally in November 1916 during the Battle of the Ancre.

For comparison the weather on my first visit at Beaumont Hamel …

They have also a small museum there but again I didn’t take photos there. I needed the place to get dry again and for chatting with the canadian guides. But I had of course a look around. Also worth to see!
That’s all for today, folks. Have to select some more photos and I guess in a few days I’ll start with Vimy Ridge.

Torsten

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I thought you might be posting about the Ulster Tower just as I was posting about it!

The pictures from inside are very interesting as is the still scarred ground at Beaumont Hamel.

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Thanks, Karl! Yes, the whole area is worth a visit. Those losses of lives are terrible, especially at the background that we have another completely useless war in Europe right now with so many casualties on both sides. I also plan to visit Verdun in the future.

The Wehrmacht also had barracks called “Thiepval Kaserne”. Ironically after WW2 the French Army moved in there until they left Germany. Meanwhile these barracks are under civil use.

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Misused the sombre… I meant more like thats I how I felt there when you reflect on it all and how many died … :+1:

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Thanks for the posts.
My mothers father served at Gallipoli and the Western front. Lived to tell the tale/s. Was wounded and gassed. Spent time in hospital in England. And in jail for hitting a British officer! Long story. I spent hours and hours tracing his story. It was a very sobering exercise.
Our grand kids have no idea. They dont even study it in school anymore.
We need to make sure we never forget their sacrifice.
Lest we forget.

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Today we go to …

If you think, Thiepval Memorial or Delville Wood are impressive, you haven’t seen the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. To me it’s the most imressive of them all. It was unveiled in 1936 for the memory of the candian soldiers who fought and fell during the Battle of Vimy Ridge between the 9. and 12. April 1917. As far as I know, the 9. April is a Rememberance Day in Canada until today. From the parking lot you see only the rear side, the front side faces the Vimy Valley near the village Givenchy. On the walls are engraved the names of more than 11200 Canadians, who died in France during WW1 and have no known grave. A place which keeps you in silence.

This is the front side …

Nearby this memorial are two small cementeries but I haven’t visited them. There’s also a new visitor center which has infomations and photos of that time. And again I forgot to take photos there, sorry.

Just across the car park stands the memorial for the Moroccan Division, which was part of the French Army and fought here at Vimy already in 1915.

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I chatted a lot with other visitors during my trips and at Vimy I even met some canadian tourists. Sometimes I was asked “Where are the others? Where are the Germans?” This question is not easy to answer. First of all, there are no monuments or memorials of the Imperial German Army in the area, not that I know. But there are cemeteries. While there are over 400 Commonwealth cemeteries in the Somme and Flanders Region, there are 22 french and only 14 german ones. I know of 3 and have visited 2 of them here. And the largest german WW1 cemetery in France is just 3 kilometers away from the Vimy Memorial. Close to the village Neuville Saint-Vaast we find it …

This is what you see first when you enter. The plague needs no explanation …

Graves as far as the eye can see …

Usually there are 4 graves under each cross like here …

But sometimes it’s just a single grave like here …

In the middle of the cemetery stands a tomb stone.

On this cemetery is also a mass grave with 8000 dead but I couldn’t get there because of works. But on the other german cemetery I was alone and could take photos. More of that on a later day.

That’s all for today, guys. Next trip could go to Australia, have to select some photos.

Torsten

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I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Vimy memorial before, or at least not in such detail. The sculpts on it are fascinating and the way it is situated on the landscape is interesting too.

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Thanks. It has always been on my bucket list to visit and say thank you to all those poor sods.

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