Péronne was in German hands for most of the war. Although an objective for the French during the Battle of the Somme, it was never taken in battle and only fell into Allied hands in early 1917 when the Germans withdrew to their newly prepared Hindenburg Line. In March 1918, the Germans stormed through the area once again, recapturing all of the positions so desperately fought for in 1916. The town was eventually liberated in September 1918, when Australian troops were sent in to capture the famous Mont-Saint-Quentin and the rest of the town. Life under German occupation deeply affected the inhabitants of Péronne and the town was almost totally destroyed. Every day, the bells of the town hall play La Madelon, a popular French song from the Great War.
Historial, Museum of the Great War
A WW1 Museum within a Mediaeval Castle
The Historial, Museum of the Great War, built within the old mediaeval castle, first opened in 1992. It provides visitors with not only a vision of what life was like for the soldiers at the front but also that of the civilians. This absorbing museum follows the chronology of the war, giving a comparative and objective view of the three main belligerant nations' experiences of war. The carefully selected artefacts included in the Historial's vast collection illustrate the military, cultural and social life of the twentieth century.
Uniquely, the military artefacts are displayed in the centre of each gallery, in pits dug out of the marble floors, reminiscent of trenches in the chalky ground of the Somme. Artefacts evoking civilian and political life are displayed in glass cabinets set around the walls of each gallery. With German artefacts placed on the top shelf, French on the middle and British on the bottom, each First World War topic is treated in a comparative manner. The central gallery of the Historial is devoted to the artwork by Otto Dix, while new exhibition displays devoted to the role of the Australians in the liberation of the town were opened in the castle's courtyard in 1915.
The Historial's services also include a Documentation Centre, where hundreds of books and documents can be viewed upon appointment, and an Educational Department for school groups and teacher resources. The Historial's International Research Centre unites historians from various different countries who organise talks and conferences and overview and add to the museum's historical content.
For the Centenary
Throughout the centenary, the Historial is undergoing a vast renovation programme. Each gallery is being updated, multimedia in the form of touch-screens and audio devices has been installed and a new audivisual room at the entrance to the building was opened in 2016. Younger visitors can also download a free app to learn about the Historial's collections in a fun and entertaining manner (tablets can be borrowed from reception, subject to availability).
The Historial also runs the Thiepval Visitor Centre and Museum.
- Open from 25 Jaunary to the beginning of December 2017
From 9.30am to 6pm from 1.04 to 30.09
From 9.30am to 5pm from 1.10 to 21.03 (closed on Wednesdays)
- Ticket prices: Adults: €9 – Children: €4.50€ (free for children under 7)
Free admission to temporary exhibitions
- Young Visitor app & tablet (loaned free of charge depending on availability)
- Free parking at “L’Espace MacOrlan”