Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France

Thiepval Memorial

The Thiepval Memorial is situated near by Pozieres village and is well signposted from many locations on the Somme battlefield.
The monument  is the largest of the most emotive memorials to the Missing from any War in which British soldiers have died. It commemorates almost 73000 soldiers who died on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and 20th March 1918, who have no known grave.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.

Short historical information: On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance.

Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks from North and East continued throughout October and November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.
The memorial has 16 brick piers faced with Portland stone. It was originally built using French bricks from Lille, but was refaced in 1973 with Accrington brick.The main arch is oriented east to west. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France

The memorial's height is 140 feet (43 m) above the level of its podium, which to the west is itself 20 feet (6.1 m) feet above the level of the adjoining cemetery. It has foundations 19 feet (5.8 m) thick, required due to extensive wartime tunnelling beneath the structure. It is a complex form of memorial arch, comprising interlocking arches of four different sizes. Each side of the main arch is pierced by a smaller arch, oriented at a right angle to the main arch.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France

Each side of each of these smaller arches is then pierced by a still smaller arch, and so on. The keystone of each smaller arch is at the level of the spring of the larger arch that it pierces. Each of these levels is marked by a stone cornice. This design results in 16 piers, having 64 stone-panelled sides. Only 48 of these are inscribed, as the panels around the outside of the memorial are blank.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France The main arch is surmounted by a tower. In the central space of the memorial a Stone of Remembrance rests on a three-stepped platform.
The soldiers’ names are listed on huge panels, mounted on sixteen piers, in regimental order and then within each regiment by rank and then name. However, the register contained in bronze lockers by the main steps is in surname order.

The introduction to the register, published in the 1930, says of those commemorated here:

"A few will be found and identified as the woods are cleared, or when
the remaining tracts of devastated land are brought under the plough.
Many more are already buried in the larger British cemeteries of the
Somme, but as unidentified. To the great majority this memorial
stands for grave and headstone, and this register for as proud a
record as that for any grave."

The Stone of Remembrance, also known as the War Stone, is a feature of most of the British and Commonwealth military cemeteries and memorials.
The Stone of Remembrance is situated in the raised section at the heart of the Thiepval Memorial and in the centre point of the arch.

The words carved on every Stone of Remembrance, “Their Name Liveth For Evermore”, were suggested by Rudyard Kipling. The phrase is taken from Ecclesiasticus. Rudyard Kipling lost his son, John, in the Battle of Loos. The Stone of Remembrance - Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France The cemetery contains 300 British Commonwealth and 300 French graves, lying at the memorial’s foot.
The Thiepval Visitors Centre -  opened in July 2004. It is a joint English-French project, and has both French and English speaking staff. The centre supplies tourist information, and has good facilities. It is located out of view, but only a short distance from the Thiepval Memorial. The Thiepval Visitors Centre - Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France

Each year on 1 July - the anniversary of the first day on the Somme - a major ceremony is held at the memorial.

Thiepval remains one of the most impressive memorials on the Western Front and is must see site.

 

Map of Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France

Thiepval Memorial

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