Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Thiepval Memorial, France

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme is a major war memorial to 72,090 missing British and Commonwealth men who died in the Battle of the Somme of the First World War and who have no known grave. It is located in France near village of Thiepval, Picardie.

The Memorial was built approximately 200 metres to the south-east of the former Thiepval Chateau, which was located on lower ground, by the side of Thiepval Wood. The grounds of the original chateau were unsuitable as this would have required the relocation of gravesites located around the numerous medical aid stations dug during the war.

The memorial, which dominates the rural scene, has sixteen piers of red brick, faced with Portland stone. It is 150 feet (46 m) high, with foundations 19 feet (6 m) thick; required due to extensive wartime tunneling beneath the structure. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial was built between 1928 and 1932 and is the biggest British battle memorial in the world. It was inaugurated by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) in the presence of Albert Lebrun, President of France, on 31 July 1932.

The memorial is reserved for those missing, or unidentified, soldiers who have no known grave. A large inscription on the memorial reads:

Here are recorded names of officers and men of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields July 1915 February 1918 but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.

On the Portland Stone piers are engraved the names of over 72,000 men who were lost in the Somme battles between July 1916 and March 1918, most of whom died in the first Battle of the Somme between 1 July and 4 November 1916. Consequently, when the remains of a soldier listed on the memorial are found and identified, he is given a funeral with full military honours and his remains buried in the closest cemetery to his location; his name is then removed from the memorial. This has resulted in numerous gaps in the lists of names.

The Thiepval Memorial also serves as an Anglo-French battle memorial to commemorate the joint nature of the 1916 offensive. In further recognition of this, a cemetery containing 300 British Commonwealth and 300 French graves lies at the foot of the memorial. Many of the soldiers buried here are unknown. The British Commonwealth graves are rectangular and made of white stone, while the French graves have grey stone crosses.

Each year on 1 July (the anniversary of the first day on the Somme) a major ceremony is held at the memorial. There is also a ceremony on the 11 November, beginning at 1045 CET.

There are many boys from Sutherland named on this memorial.
including: David NewlandsAdam Macleod,

Thanks to Morag Sutherland for taking these wonderful photographs. 

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