Saturday, 14 November 2015

Thiepval Memorial and Anglo-French cemetery.

We visited the Thiepval Memorial in northern France in May as part of a visit to WW1 battle sites, at this centenary time, to see where so, so many, soldiers from all parts of the world, including our relatives, had fought and died. Thiepval is a small village in the beautiful Picardy region and it lies in the valley of the river Somme, scene of fierce battles for control of the area.

This information sign below is displayed at the site and sets out, as well as anyone could, the motivation for the memorial and how it came to be built.


Amongst these 72,000 names are seven holders of the Victoria Cross (one a South African) and numerous sportsmen of the time; top cricket and rugby players from all parts of the United Kingdom.

During construction. This memorial is probably the most imposing of such British structures in the area and is visited by 120,000 people every year. The white panels are of Portland stone from Dorset and the brick above was from Lille, the nearby French town.

Another view of the memorial later in its construction. It is 43 metres (140 feet) high and is built on very thick foundations, required because of wartime tunnels existing below.

Letter carving of each of the more than 72,000 individual names; an enormous and laborious task!

Thiepval Memorial on its inauguration day in August 1932.

My own picture of the Memorial on a rare sunny dry moment (!) in early May 2015. Heavy rain squalls were passing every hour or so. It really is huge when you stand near or on it, as you can imagine from the tiny-looking doorways at the bottom of each tower.  It dominates the landscape and is obviously sited deliberately on a high point, so that it can be seen from afar. In 1973, due to weathering, the red Lille brick was replaced by much harder red engineering bricks from Lancashire.

View from the memorial on its other side, across the cemetery towards the open rolling countryside of the area. The many cemeteries in northern France and Belgium are kept in immaculate condition by the CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

The inscription at the top of the memorial

Just a few of the innumerable panels recording the names of the missing Allied soldiers. If you look at the memorial photo three photos above, each of those sixteen tower supports has three sides entirely covered with such panels. And these are only the missing! The hundreds of thousands of known soldiers killed in the Somme battles are laid to rest in small cemeteries, dotted very prominently across the local landscape. It's a very sobering place to visit.


My thanks once again to Nigel for all his research and the write up. 



See also my daily Photo Diary Here



My Life Before Charente   - New post 24/10/2015

49 comments:

  1. Very good photos both historical and current. It's an impressive monument to the many men who fought and died for freedoms. God bless their souls.

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    1. Thanks Joyful for your comment. It is an impressive monument but sad it was necessary to build. There are so many cemeteries in that part of the word yet still so many missing men. RIP. Hope you are well Diane

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  2. It is so difficult to comprehend that number of soldiers who are missing, let alone the thousands of soldiers of have named graves. The loss of life was horrendous, but these monuments and cemeteries honour those that gave their lives for their countries x

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    1. Kerry I agree it is so difficult to understand how many soldiers could still be missing, although we do not hear a lot about it now there are still bodies being found. It is very sobering walking around the cemeteries, monuments and museums in the area. See you very soon Diane x

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  3. Hi Diane - There was a film about those small cemeteries - probably a tv programme - it was very evocative ... last year we had a lot of coverage. It does go on ... and we see and read more information about those times 100 years ago. I never wanted to go or expressed an interest in going over to see the battlefields ... but now having been blogging and reading blogs I'd like to go sometime. Lots of major ceremonies are held at the Thiepval Memorial ... it certainly brings home the horror of the First World War ... so so sad - as was Friday ... with thanks and thoughts - Hilary

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    1. We did a tour of as any cemeteries as we could and we found quite a lot of family members. It was interesting, but also brought home the horrors that they all went through. The museums were particularly sobering. Hope you are well Diane

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  4. A poignant post Diane, great photos and very interesting history.

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    1. Thanks Denise, it really brings home what our grand parents went through, all very sad Diane

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  5. Historical cemeteries are incredible. You feel the history all around you. Thank you for sharing.

    Velva

    Peace with France tonight.

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    1. Thanks Velva not a good weekend in France and I had picked this theme before the Paris disaster. Historical cemeteries are interesting and some of the museums we saw on this trip really brought it to life, it was quite scary. Keep well Diane

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  6. Visiting such a place must surely tug at the heart strings, Diane, ...... just looking at your photos made me feel greatly moved. Vx

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    1. Vera it is very moving walking around the cemeteries in the area and the museums, especially when you see family names on monuments ans stones. Hope you are well Diane

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  7. What a wonderful memorial for the fallen, a small comfort for their families.

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    1. Thanks Rosaria for your comment, we saw a number of family names and it is a good feeling that although they went missing they have not been forgotten. Have a good day Diane

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  8. Diane really impressed pictures, and interesting history!
    Friday was so sad dear Diane. Hugs and love !
    xoxoxo

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    1. Thanks Gloria, Friday has left us all in shock, so sad that so many innocent people are being killed by a few radicals!! What is the world coming to? Keep well and take care Diane x

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  9. Very impressive structure. It's good that those who went missing in war are honored. Nigel is a good researcher, and your photography is as always superb.

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    1. Thanks Gaelyn, yes it is good know know that the missing are remembered in such a way. Nigel has more patience than i have for research!!!! Keep warm, hope that snow did not last Diane

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  10. War memorials are so very important, yet I feel as if they are being forgotten at an alarming rate, perhaps because those of us who remember men connected with those wars are aging. Beautiful photos, Diane, and a nice tribute to those who are gone and might otherwise be forgotten, but who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free.

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    1. Marjie I think that they were being forgotten to a certain extent, but since so many people have got caught up in the search for family trees, I think there are many younger people now aware that their great grandparents were part of the two WW's. I hope that is the case anyway and that they never are forgotten. It is very heart rending seeing family names on grave stones and memorials. Hope you get your house sorted out very soon, Diane

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  11. Συγκλονιστική η ανάρτηση σου αγαπητή μου Diane, και πολύτιμη η βοήθεια του συζύγου σου!
    Πολλά φιλιά

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    1. Ευχαριστώ για το σχόλιο είδος Μάγδα (I hope this is correct!)

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  12. We used to pass through the area going to and from Belgium...very sobering...not just for the big memorials, such as this, but for the signs leading to tiny squares of graves, tucked away down the lanes.

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    1. I could not agree more, there are so many signs and so many cemeteries, it is hard to believe the true disaster of war. I was managing pretty well going from one to the other, even with seeing family names, but when I got the the South African cemetery I just choked up. I think it was something to do with it being in such peaceful surroundings and I walked off on my own through the forest in tears. The museums are also very sobering. Hope you are both well. Sorry I read your posts on my email and I seldom get across to comment - I must do better ! Diane

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  13. I can imagine that it is a very sobering place to visit.

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    1. Diane it is hard to believe that so many lives were lost, some literally never to be seen or found again. It is interesting but very depressing as well. I hope you are well t'other Diane

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  14. Your photos are all great, Diane! It's a wonderful memorial to honor the soldiers, all in the name of freedom. You are lucky to live in an area surrounded with such great history, Diane. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks Pam it is good that the missing are remembered. We do have so much history around here - back to when the Romans were here as well!!! Keep well Diane

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  15. Such an interesting post. And what a photo of the memorial!

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    1. Thanks José for the kind comment, Hope that you re well Diane

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  16. The cemeteries in France and Belgium that I have visited tug at your heart…so many lives lost.

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    1. As you say Karen, so many lives lost and we found a number of family members in our search. Do people ever learn? Diane

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  17. Hello Diane,
    First of all, congratulations for the new photo you've put up in your profile, it is great and makes me want to toast with you!!
    This monument looks huge indeed, but it is the kind of place I tend to avoid, anything that relates to wars make feel very uneasy.
    I wish you a great weekend although the weather will be dreadful :(
    Much love,

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    1. Thanks so much Noushka, comment appreciated. Monuments and cemeteries can be very difficult to walk around but we were on a mission trying to track down family We did have a good weekend but as you say the weather was not the best. I hope that you are managing and all is being sorted out. Take care, I think of you so often. Diane x

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  18. Impresive Memorial. If only the memories of such atrocities would teaches us not to fight, but human beings don't seem to learn the lesson. Hope you're safe and sound far away enough from Paris. My best regards dear Diane

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    1. Thanks Pamela, yes we are far away from Paris but is any where safe these days? Yes I agree people do not learn but this now is a completely different kind of war. Take care Diane

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    1. Thanks Rebecca, comment is appreciated. Hope you are well Diane

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  20. I have always wanted to visit these sites - I was born at a time when most of the old men of my village had been in WW1. Visiting these places seems like the least I can do.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: my slowness to comment and visit has been caused by a trip to an island in the Pacific!

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    1. Stewart we wanted to visit as there are a number of family names listed on the memorial. We at least could pay our respects. Diane

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  21. Thankyou to Nigel and yourself for another interesting post.

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    1. Thanks Linda, interesting but sad that iy ever had to be! Hope you are well Diane.

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  22. I was not aware of this place, Diane, but your excellent account and beautiful photos make me feel that I am standing there - and it brings tears to my eyes! I did visit the Menin Gate once when the evening ceremony took place - although the structure itself is less impressive than that at Thiepval, the ceremony was extremely moving.

    Take good care. Best wishes - - - - Richard

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    1. Richard we also went to the ceremony at the Menin Gate, very emotional!! We also went to as many cemeteries as we could looking for family. Take care and enjoy the rest of the week. Diane

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  23. Oh thank you so much for these awesome images Diane, what a magnificent memorial, was so wonderful to see the b&w shots taken during construction, j'adore! Your view through is tres poignant, so many wasted lives.

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    1. As you say so many lives destroyed for what! Do people ever learn? I was actually managing very well, although it was not easy to not get too emotional, until I got the the most peaceful cemetery in our tour, The South African one, I simply choked up when I got there and wandered off into the forest to compose myself. Take care and have a good weekend Diane

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    2. I can imagine Diane, it's a dreadful thing altogether but when it becomes even more personal it's unbearable. I can't even begin to comprehend 72,000 lives, madness!

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  24. What a beautiful and manenngful historical structure! I am constantly learning new things through your blog Diane.

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    1. So many lives lost Rose and so many people missing. It is good that they are all remembered. Diane

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