With Such Memorials We Will Never Forget
By Stewart Creasey
23 April 2014
With the centenary of World War One, Great Rail Journeys bring you a moving series of trips to the battlefields and graves of Northern France and Belgium.Read more
For centuries Thiepval was a thriving rural village much like any other of those found in northern France's beautiful Picardy region. It might have remained so forever had it not been for the village's strategic significance in the infamous battles that took place in and around the Somme Valley during the 1914-1919 First World War.
Before 1914, Thiepval was one of the largest villages in the Somme Valley with many of villagers finding employment on the woodland estate of the nearby Thiepval Chateau. In September 1914, German troops arrived in Thiepval, seizing control of the village in order to take strategic advantage of its elevated position on the Thiepval Ridge.
Between the summers of 1915 and 1916 British and Irish troops advanced on the village but were repelled and sustained heavy casualties. In September 1916, British artillery subjected Thiepval to heavy bombardment, completely destroying the village and most of the chateau. In the ensuing Battle of Thiepval Ridge the Allied Forces eventually regained capture of the area on October 14th.
Today, Thiepval is a much smaller village and has been rebuilt slightly to the southwest of its original position. It has become an international tourist attraction as the location of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, the largest war memorial in the world and is an unmissable destination for visitors on battlefield tours of the Somme.
Situated close to the ruins of the Chateau, the vast Thiepval Memorial is 150 feet tall and can be seen from many miles around. Designed by the eminent British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial was built from red brick and grey Portland stone and bears the names of more than 73,000 British and African soldiers declared missing in action.
The Ulster Tower
Located near to the Schwaben Redoubt, a notorious German stronghold, the Ulster Tower is a monument in honour of the soldiers of the 36th (Ulster) Division who attacked the Schwaben Redoubt on July 1st 1916, losing five thousand men in the resulting conflict. The tower is a recreation of St. Helen's Tower in County Down in Northern Island, where the soldiers of the 36th Division were trained.
Thiepval Visitors Centre
Welcoming more than 150,000 visitors each year since its opening in 1994, the Thiepval Visitors Centre is a museum which sets out the events of the Battle of the Somme and the First World War using texts, photographs and videos in order to provide a moving context to the nearby Thiepval Memorial.
A short rail journey to Lille takes us close to the Battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, two of the most infamous and iconic sites of the First World War. We also explore the fascinating city of Lille on a guided tour which includes a traditional beer and waffle tasting.… see more
5 days from £585 ppView tour details >