The Somme – Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial

As with the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel somberly memorializes the dead while preserving the battlefield as it was. This is one of the best preserved sections of the Somme and the extensive grounds and its iconic baying elk make it one of the best memorials of the war. The central focus of the memorial is a bronze elk calling in the direction that soldiers went to attack. On the grounds are other British cemeteries and memorials.

The elk

The elk

The elk

The elk

The baying elk

The baying elk

The trenches

The trenches

Trenches

Trenches

Danger tree, the only remaining tree from the war

Danger tree, the only remaining tree from the war

The battlefield is still dangerous

The battlefield is still dangerous

Scottish memorial

Scottish memorial

A cemetery

A cemetery

The sheep to mow the lawn

The sheep to mow the lawn

Trenches

The battlefield

A gun carriage

A gun carriage

A shell crater filled with water

A shell crater filled with water

A barbed wire post

A barbed wire post

The Somme – Thiepval Memorial

The Thiepval Memorial commemorates 72,000 soldiers who went missing in the battles for the Somme, in addition to 300 British and 300 French graves at the foot of the memorial. The Thiepval Memorial dominates the skyline for miles around and is an imposing building. From a distance I’ve always found it a little bulky, but up close, especially when reading the names, it takes on a more nuanced presence. We must have spent 20 minutes at the monument, not counting our time at the visitor’s center. Again, like so often happened after the first few minutes the quiet of the place took on an all pervading sense of tranquility.

At many of the cemeteries on the trip we saw people looking for relatives. Thiepval was no exception and as you can see in the photos there are people sitting on the steeps looking through the registers.

Thiepval: The monument

Thiepval: The monument

Thiepval: The monument

Thiepval: The monument. note the inscription “The Missing of the Somme” at mid level

Thiepval: The Altar in the center of the monument

Thiepval: The Altar in the center of the monument

Thiepval: A family's remembrance for a missing uncle

Thiepval: A family’s remembrance for a missing uncle

Thiepval: Wreathes of remberance

Thiepval: Wreathes of remembrance

Thiepval: Some of the missing

Thiepval: Some of the missing

Thiepval: A family remembers a grandfather

Thiepval: A family remembers a grandfather

Thiepval: A French unknown soldier

Thiepval: A French unknown soldier

Thiepval: A British unknown soldier

Thiepval: A British unknown soldier

Thiepval: The cememtery

Thiepval: The cememtery

Thiepval: An unknown soldier

Thiepval: An unknown soldier

Thiepval: The monument from the cemetery side

Thiepval: The monument from the cemetery side

Thiepval: A rose

Thiepval: A rose

Thiepval: the cemetery

Thiepval: the cemetery

Thiepval: The registry

Thiepval: The registry

Thiepval: Guide to where the names of the missing are located. This is only half the names

Thiepval: Guide to where the names of the missing are located. This is only half the names

 

The Somme

The following photos are the small monuments we came across as we drove the route. Many of these are small lonely monuments along the side of a road, or in some cases in the middle of a farm field. And a few are tourist traps.

A roadside poppy

A roadside poppy near the Ulster Tower

Another lonely cemetery

A lonely cemetery

A lonely cemetery

Another lonely cemetery

Australian memorial

First Australian memorial

Tank memorial

Tank memorial

Ulster tower

Ulster tower

Inside the Ulster tower

Inside the Ulster tower

Inside the Ulster tower gift shop. They must have a problem with this

Inside the Ulster tower gift shop. They must have a problem

Lochnagar Crater

Lochnagar Crater

Lochnagar Crater memorial

Lochnagar Crater memorial

Coffee shop at the Lochnagar Crater

Coffee shop at the Lochnagar Crater

A billboard by the Australian memorial

A billboard by the Australian memorial

WWI themed beer

WWI themed beer for sale at Le Tommy

Neuville-St.-Vaast German Military Cemetery And Arras

The Neuville-St.-Vaast German Military Cemetery is the largest one in France with 44,000 graves. At first glance the cemetery doesn’t seem that large until you realize there are four names on each cross. We were the only ones in the cemetery that day. After this we went to Arras another city destroyed and rebuilt. The Wellington Quarry museum is an underground tour through old mines that the British used as barracks and staging areas before the 1917 battles of Arras. Very good museum, but unfortunately you can’t take photos in the mine.

The rare wild flowers in a cemetery

The rare wild flowers in a cemetery

Crosses

Crosses

The cemetery

The cemetery

The exapnsivness

The expansiveness

Memorial

Memorial

Detail of memorial

Detail of memorial

Cross of remembrance from a British naval air station

Cross of remembrance from a British naval air station

Entrance to cemetery

Entrance to cemetery

Wellington Quarry museum

Wellington Quarry museum

Arras town hall

Arras town hall

 

Notre Dame de Lorette – Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery

The Notre Dame de Lorette (Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery) is the largest French military cemetery in France. It wasn’t really on my initial plan to visit, but given its location between Vimy and Arras it made for a good stop. Before stopping I hadn’t even heard of the battle of Artois, which says a lot about the futility of the battle.

There are two things that make this cemetery unique. First, there are always four volunteers on staff to greet visitors and assure that there is always someone available for the families. Two stand at the entrance to the church and two stand at the entrance to the ossuary. At first I thought they were there to keep people out, but when they saw us looking at the church they waved us over. They were friendly and mentioned something about the cold. They were quite surprised to hear we were from the United States. I don’t think many Americans pass through there. I didn’t take as many photos as I might have because I wasn’t sure if it was allowed in the church.

The other thing, something I’ve never seen, is there was a restaurant on site. It was full of people and served a good menu of the day. The volunteers ate their lunch their too with a good glass of wine.

Church and ossuary

Church and ossuary

Roses

Roses

Two soldiers

Two soldiers

The cemetery

The cemetery

The cemetery

The cemetery

The cemetery

The cemetery

The church of Notre Dame de Lorette

The church of Notre Dame de Lorette

Detail of a nave

Detail of the nave

WWI themed stain glass

WWI themed stain glass

The priest who founded the church

The priest who founded the church

The altar of the church

The altar of the church

Detail of the dome of the church

Detail of the dome of the church

The Ossuary with eternal flame at the top

The Ossuary with eternal flame at the top

Inside the Ossuary

Inside the Ossuary

The restaurant

The restaurant

 

Vimy Ridge – Canadian National Vimy Memorial

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge is one of the best WWI memorials. Three things make the memorial so memorable. First, the monument itself, like all of the Canadian monuments, is sober. It doesn’t celebrate victory, but morns loss, even though the battle for Vimy ridge itself was a great success. Two, the Canadian government bought the land around the battle field and left it as it was at the end of the war. It is one of the few untouched battlefields left. Finally, the battle for Vimy Ridge was marked with extensive use of tunnels. The tunnels remain and Canadian students lead tours through them that not only explain the tunnels, but what was happening in the battle. And as an added plus you’ll get a little dose of Canadian history. It is a site not to be missed.

Vimy: Looking from the Lens side

Vimy: Looking from the Lens side

Vimy: Detail of the Lens side

Vimy: Detail of the Lens side

Vimy: The mother mourning her son

Vimy: The mother mourning her son

Vimy: The mourning mother

Vimy: The mourning mother

Vimy: Detail of the statue in the center of the spires

Vimy: Detail of the statue in the center of the spires

Vimy: Detail of the right side looking from Lens

Vimy: Detail of the right side looking from Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of leftside of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of leftside of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of right side of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of right side of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Trench line with sheep to mow the lawn

Vimy: Trench line with sheep to mow the lawn

Vimy: Shell craters

Vimy: Shell craters

Vimy: The battlefield is still full of live ammunition

Vimy: The battlefield is still full of live ammunition

Vimy: Parts of the original trenches were perserved with cement sand bags

Vimy: Parts of the original trenches were perserved with cement sand bags

Vimy: The Moroccan memorial

Vimy: The Moroccan memorial

Ieper

Ieper, Belgium was completely destroyed during the war. It has been beautifully reconstructed, including a faithful reproduction of the Cloth Hall. The Cloth Hall houses the In Flanders Fields Museum the most pacifistic war museum I’ve every been in. First there is a constant ominous drone, a music that gives the museum an undercurrent of foreboding. Second, many of the displays are about the dehumanization of the military. When displaying an uniform, they note that when a civilian joins the military his identity is taken away and replaced with a conforming uniform. They shows children’s games that promote militarism along with propaganda from each side. And as you leave the museum there are banners listing every war since WWI. This is not a museum so much about the history of war, but the history of collective insanity. The museum along with the Passchendaele museum bring the horrors that were the four battles of Ieper into focus. I didn’t take too many photos here, but the few I have will give you an idea of what Ieper is like.

Ieper: The Cloth Hall

Ieper: The Cloth Hall

Ieper: Detail of the Cloth Hall. These might be from the original Cloth Hall and owe their disfigured shape to the war

Ieper: Detail of the Cloth Hall. These might be from the original Cloth Hall and owe their disfigured shape to the war

Ieper: The town hall reconstruction

Ieper: The town hall reconstruction

Ieper: German propaganda poster showing that in for over a 100 years they were the least war-like nation

Ieper: German propaganda poster showing that for over a 100 years they were the least war-like nation

Ieper: Children's book showing the glories of war

Ieper: Children’s book showing the heroic French deaths

Ieper: At the exit of the museum is a list of every war since the WWI

Ieper: At the exit of the museum is a list of every war since the WWI

Ieper: There is quite a bit of WWI tourism on display, especially given the 100th anniversary

Ieper: WWI chocolates. There is quite a bit of WWI tourism on display, especially given the 100th anniversary

Ieper – Tyne Cot Cemetery

The Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing near Passendale is the largest British military cemetery in the world with 11,954 burials. Along the walls of the inclosing arc are the names of another 35,000 missing for the years 1917-1918. The mud of the Passendale campaign particularly contributed number of missing. The area like most military cemeteries was the site of a battle that took place on October, 4 1917. There are three German bunkers in the cemetery, two are readily visible and the third is under the Cross of Sacrifice that is part of every Commonwealth Cemetery.

Given its size, importance, and proximity there were dozens of British tourists and several tour groups. It was quite a marked contrast from some of the remoter cemeteries that where wrapped in quiet. On the other hand, we did get to eavesdrop on the tour and learn a few things.

Tyne Cot: Roses and an unknown

Tyne Cot: Roses and an unknown

Tyne Cot: Rose with the names of the missing in the background

Tyne Cot: Rose with the names of the missing in the background

Tyne Cot: Names of the missing

Tyne Cot: Names of the missing

Tyne Cot:  the New Zealand missing

Tyne Cot: the New Zealand missing

Tyne Cot: Some of the missing

Tyne Cot: Some of the missing

Tyne Cot: The Cross of Sacrifice on top of the German bunker

Tyne Cot: The Cross of Sacrifice on top of the German bunker

Tyne Cot: A wreathe of poppies and crosses of remberance

Tyne Cot: A wreathe of poppies and crosses of remembrance

Tyne Cot: Crosses of remembrance at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice

Tyne Cot: Crosses of remembrance at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice

Tyne Cot: An Australian unknown soldier

Tyne Cot: An Australian unknown soldier

Tyne Cot:  Ieper is the two tall spires in the distance

Tyne Cot: Ieper is the two tall spires in the distance

Tyne Cot: Looking towards Ieper

Tyne Cot: Looking towards Ieper

Tyne Cot:

Tyne Cot: