Nicknamed 'Devil's Wood' by the soldiers of the South African 1st Infantry who fought here during the Battle of the Somme in the First World War, Delville Wood, near the town of Longueval in Picardy, northern France, saw intense fighting.
Beneath the protective cover of fifty-five acres of trees the German Army dug trenches in Delville Wood to defend the captured Longueval; a 'fortress town' manned by heavily-armed German soldiers. The Allies considered liberating Longueval and routing the enemy strategically vital to ending the war on the Western Front.
The Battle of Delville Wood began early on July 15th 1916 when South African soldiers mounted an attack under virtually continuous German artillery fire which fell at up to four hundred shells per minute. Deprived of rations, water and sleep and having lost eighty percent of its men, the South African Infantry was eventually relieved on July 19th. Delville Wood had become a devastated, hellish quagmire, with every tree but one reduced to a stump. It was finally cleared of German troops on September 3rd.
In 1920, the South African Government bought Delville Wood, establishing a permanent memorial for the country's servicemen who perished in the Great War. Today, Delville Wood is a picturesque yet sobering reminder of war's high cost to humanity and an unmissable destination on any tour of the Somme's battlefields.