The iconic Battle of the Somme, which began on 1st July 1916, was the bloodiest day for the British Army and became a symbol of the First World War in Great Britain.
The Thiepval Anglo-French Monument
The Thiepval Anglo-French Monument is one of the main memorial sites in the Somme region and the repository of 72,194 names of British and South African missing soldiers who have no known grave.
Next to the Memorial is the Visitor Centre which has been managed by the Historial de la Grande Guerre (Museum of the Great War) in Péronne since its creation in 2004. It welcomes over 200,000 visitors each year, the majority of which are British.
A new museum
Built along the path leading to the monument itself is a new 400 square metre museum, an extension of the Thiepval Visitor Centre opened to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Chiefly constructed underground it has been designed to blend in sympathetically with the surrounding architecture and with the landscape.
Featured in the new museum an animated map dedicated to the Battles of the Somme presenting the impact of the fighting on the territory, taking the form of a wide panorama of the battlefield, Joe Sacco’s artwork titled The Great War, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Other features include The Germans on the Somme – an installation to explain the German experience of the Battles of the Somme; The Battles of the Somme – Mourning and Missing – a comparison of two types of memories, the massive loss of men in a total, destructive war symbolised by the fate of the missing and heroic figures; The Mass of the Missing – a room called the ‘Chapel of the Missing’ which is dedicated to those soldiers whose names adorn the Thiepval Monument; and Heroic Figures – a scale replica of a Great War combat airplane on display along with biographies of heroes from all nationalities. This room is dedicated to the role of aviation in the war that increased from 1916 onwards with that the emergence of “sky heroes”.
New ‘Writers in War’ Exhibition
On display until 16 November 2016, the Historial de la Grande Guerre – Museum of the Great War – located in Péronne – is also presenting a new ‘Writers in War’ 14-18 exhibition. Written by great authors of the French, German and English language, the exhibition is a literary and poetic trail through the eyes and voices of writers who experienced the First World War, from the front lines to rear, from the eve of the conflict to its aftermath.
These men, including J.R.R. Tolkien and Siegfried Sassoon, shared the fate of millions of their contemporaries. Their unique words are strongly expressed through letters, stories and poems, especially the English war poets who in 1916 took part in the Battle of the Somme. One hundred and forty documents, a large number of which are displayed for the first time, include diaries, manuscripts, personal effects, illustrated books, literature, photographs, graphic art and drawings by the writers themselves or by artists whom they knew.
Entry to ‘Writers in War’ is free of charge.
Joint tickets are available for entrance to the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and the new museum at the Thiepval site.