The Somme Battlefields will forever hold an important place in Australian and New Zealand memory. A century ago, these quiet towns, villages and fields of Northern France witnessed the triumphs, tragedy and unimaginable loss of these two nations' forces.
After their baptism of fire in Galipolli, 1915, the Anzacs were deployed to the Western Front, where they played an important role in the 1916 Battle of the Somme. The Australians were involved in the fight for Pozières, losing 23,000 men in just six weeks of fighting, and the New Zealanders fought in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, where, out of the 15,000 men involved, approximately one in seven were killed.
Today, reminders of their great sacrifice can be seen across the Western Front. No family was left untouched by the devasation this war caused, and today a journey to the battlefields of the Somme is always a very poignant experience. In addition to the graves of the Commonwealth cemeteries, many memorials, museums and places of remembrance are visited by thousands of Australians and New Zealanders each year.
Australian and New Zealand sites of remembrance in the Somme are numerous. They include the New Zealand Memorial located on the very position of the New Zealand battle of 15th September 1916; the memorial to the New Zealand missing in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval; the Australian National Memorial and poignant Franco-Australian Museum in Villers-Bretonneux; Pozières and the various memorials in remembrance of the Australians who fought for this strategic position; the Australian Corps Memorial at Le Hamel, on the site of General Sir John Monash's well planned battle of 4th July 1918; and Mont Saint Quentin, with its memorial to the 2nd Australian Division and interpretative walking trail.
The Sir John Monash Centre will open behind the National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux to provide visitors with an evocative, emotional, and educational experience themed on Australian involvement in World War One, while in Vignacourt, the Thuillier's Farmhouse Interpretation Centre will tell the story of two amateur photographers and their photographic plates of Allied soldiers and civilians that were found in the farmhouse attic in 2011.
Other sites of interest to Australian and New Zealand visitors include the Historial, Museum of the Great War, especially with its exhibition displays about the Australian role in WW1 and the capture of Péronne in 1918; the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert; and Amiens Cathedral with its plaques of remembrance to the Allied troops. The Underground City of Naours is another place of particular interest. Loacted just to the north of Amiens, these old caves were a tourist attraction in the early 20th century, and Allied servicement often visited them. A number even left their names upon the walls...
The Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs in partnership with local authorities, is developping an Australian Remembrance Trail. The trail will link the sites most significant to Australian remembrance, and aims to improve visitors’ understanding and appreciation of the achievements and sacrifices of the Australians.
Australians and New Zealanders who fought here:
It's easy to plan a trip to the Somme Battlefields! Different types of accommodation, in the city of Amiens, or other villages and towns close to the battlefields, can be booked here. You can also find information about our official Somme Battlefield guides, who can arrange standard or tailor-made tours of the battlefields just for you. The contact details for taxis and private chauffeurs can also be found here.
If you're making a trip to the Somme Battlefields, why not spend a few extra days exploring other parts of the region? The Somme Bay is one of the most beautiful in the world and the peaceful Somme Valley is just perfect for walking and cycling. Enjoy some of the sights the Allied soldiers would have seen when they were able to spend a spot of R&R away from the trenches. Take a look at www.visit-somme.com for more information!