Recalling the Somme; a tour of the Somme battlefields
The name of the Somme will forever be associated with Britain and the First World War. The battle was the first experience of action for the vast majority of Britain’s new volunteer army and 57,000 casualties were suffered on the first day alone, 1 July 1916. Your independent tour will enable you to visit sites from this fateful day, but will enable you to also see sites from later stages of the battle, such as that of the Somme’s only cavalry charge and where tanks were used for the first time.
These are just some examples of sites which can be included in an Arras tour; however, there are many more:
At Serre, you will follow the story of the Northern pals battalions who suffered enormous casualties on 1 July 1916. You will be able to stand in the remains of the trench where the young men who joined Kitchener’s Army were at 7.30am on that fateful day. You will see the ground where so many of them fell and see the line of cemeteries where they lie today. Behind the trench line lies Sheffield Memorial Park with its moving memorials to the pals battalions.
You will then drive to Thiepval where will visit the magnificent memorial which dominates the sky line. On this memorial, over 72,000 men from Britain and South Africa who died with no known grave are remembered. There is a visitors‘ centre with displays and a shop. You will also visit sites from 1 July, and visit the Lonsdale cemetery where James Youll Turnbull VC is buried not far from where he died.
The Ulster Tower
The Ulster Tower commemorates the attack of the 36th Division on 1 July 1916; this was the only division which made significant gains in this sector on the day. You are able to visit the tower with its display of items retrieved from archeological digs. The preserved trenches in Thiepval Wood are fascinating to visit.
At Newfoundland Park, the preserved trenches give a dramatic impression of the daunting task facing the soldiers who attacked the village of Beaumont Hamel on 1 July 1916. The striking monument of the Caribou, the emblem of the Newfoundland Regiment, dominates the area. Tactics changed dramatically over the following weeks and on 13 November 1916 the village was finally taken by the 51st Highland Division. The statue of a highland soldier now stands proudly overlooking Beaumont Hamel.
On 1 July, at7.30am the British detonated two mines below the German Front Line trenches at La Boisselle. As the earth was thrown in the air, German troops were preparing to race to the top of their dugouts and defend their front line trenches while the British were desperately hoping that the enemy would be obliterated. Visitors today never fail to be amazed at the sheer size of the preserved Lochnagar mine crater. The attack on the village failed and standing by the crater, you will be able see both Sausage and Mash valleys where so many British soldiers were mown down by ferocious machine gun fire.