WWI Somme Battlefields
After eighteen months of deadlock, the Battle of the Somme was supposed to be the decisive breakthrough for the British and French Allies on the Western Front. Instead, with 20,000 men killed on the first day and one million casualties in total on both sides, the Battle of the Somme became a by-word for indiscriminate slaughter. Due to their efforts on the first day of the Battle, George V gave the First Newfoundland regiment the new title of 'The Royal Newfoundland Regiment.' Owing to the massive slaughter that the regiment suffered, the Regiment and the British Legion are still remembered every year on the nearest Sunday to 1st July.
Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Park
This park, located near Beaumont Hamel, is one of only a few sites on the Western Front where the ground remains largely untouched from when the First World War ended. The area has been maintained because of the significance to Newfoundland; the Newfoundland Regiment, which was part of the 88th Infantry Brigade within the 29th Division, attacked here on the 1st of July 1916, and suffered appalling losses.
Arras is famed for the secret tunnels beneath the town that were dug out and used by British troops during the Great War. Eventually, the Battle at Arras claimed 159,000 lives in only 39 days, which is more than the amount of people who died per day at the Somme (2,943).
The Thiepval 'Memorial to the Missing' remains the largest British war memorial in the world and is dedicated to the 73,357 British and South African men who have no known grave and who died at the Somme between July 1916 and March 1918. The memorial, which dominates the surrounding area, is 150ft high and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The cemetery behind the memorial is unusual because it contains the remains of both French and British soldiers to commemorate the Anglo-French alliance at the Somme.
© Mosman Library
The village of Pozières was completely destroyed in World War I during what became the Battle of Pozières (23 July–7 August 1916), which was part of the Battle of the Somme. The village was subsequently rebuilt, and is now the site of several war memorials. The Australian flag flies over Pozières in recognition of the sacrifice of the ANZACs in the Battle of Pozières. Amongst the British and other Commonwealth forces who fought at Pozières, the Australians suffered over 5,000 killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
© Amanda Slater
As the largest crater on the Western Front, the Lochnagar Crater has a diameter of 300 ft. and a depth of 70ft., and when it exploded it created an explosion which could even be felt in London.
© Amanda Slater
The memorial at Delville Wood serves as the national memorial to all those of the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force who died during World War I. A total of some 229,000 officers and men served in the forces of South Africa in the war. Of these, some 10,000 died in action or through injury and sickness, and their names are written in a memorial register that was kept at this memorial, and is now kept at the nearby museum. The location of the memorial marks the role played by South African forces in the Battle of Delville Wood.
© Amanda Slater
Somme 1916 Museum, Albert
The museum at Albert is located 10 metres underground and is 250 metres long. The museum will give you and your students the opportunity to experientially understand what everyday life was like in the trenches during the year 1916.
© Yannick Vernet
Historial de la Grande Guerre, Peronne
The Historial de la Grande Guerre museum, aims to show its visitors what life was like for the major participants in World War I, and what the impact of the war was on the rest of the twentieth century. It also shows the effect that the war had on the civilian populations that were occupied by enemy forces, who were often forced to flee their homes. There is an extensive collection which includes many items that were used by the soldiers, which help to clearly depict life during the war. There are also some films and walk through exhibits, which add to the experience.
© Guillaume Baviere
The horror of war and the sheer numbers of casualties are brought into focus with a visit to Vimy Ridge. A key strategic target throughout the war, assaults on the ridge cost in excess of 150,000 French lives alone. The re-constructed trenches offer a real sense of the what it must have been like.
© Charles D P Miller
La Coupole is a World War II remembrance museum that seeks to analyse the relationships between science and war, and war and the image. It is located where the secret launch site of Hitler's V1 and V2 rockets were planned to be. It is an impressive museum that uses multi-media interaction in order to bring the facts of World War II to life in a way that is accessible and informative.
Azincourt Medieval Centre
Normandy is steeped in history from well before the wars of the 20th century and you and your students can discover the story behind the 100 years war and the famous Battle of Azincourt in this excellent museum.
© Sarah Sutherland
World War I Ypres Battlefields
Throughout World War I, Ypres and the surrounding area were strategically important as the last defensible position between the German army and the Channel ports. Whilst the frontline was forever changing, at a terrible cost in terms of human life, it never moved more than a few miles during the whole campaign.
© Dennis Jarvis
Arromanches and Caen
Preceded by air attacks along the French coast and paratroops landing behind enemy lines, the 6th June, 1944 or D-Day marked the start of the Allied Forces invasion of mainland Europe and its liberation from the Nazis. Arromanches is at the heart of the D-Day Landings. There are museums with vivid and emotive displays, including the famous 360˚cinema with unreleased footage from war correspondents, filmed on D-Day. There is also the Musee du Debarquement in Arromanche des Bains, built on the site of the Mulberry Harbour, with working models and film to explain this incredible technical feat.
The Caen Memorial stimulates thought and debate about the future of the planet, presenting a wealth of material from the 20th century in an innovative way.
© Dennis Jarvis
Normandy Landing Beaches
Follow the execution of Operation Overlord by following the ‘Circuit du Debarquement’ along Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah landing beaches.
© Henk Bekker
Battle of Normandy Museum, Bayeux
Superb museum, exhibits, documents and photographs from the landings and battles.
Where Allied paratroopers landed early on D-Day to secure the strategically important bridges crossing the River Orne and Caen Canal.
© Achilli Family Journeys
Pointe du Hoc
One of the best preserved battlefield sites, including gun positions and bunkers.
Essex Farm Cemetery
Not as large as some cemetery's across Belgium and France, Essex Farm is nevertheless a very moving and poignant place to visit as part of a history school tour to the region. The famous poem 'In Flanders Field' by John McCrae was written here and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintain the site of over 1200 graves.
Yorkshire Trench and Dug-Out
Recently discovered during the building of an industrial estate, the Yorkshire Trench and Dug-Out, is now a memorial site that features a reconstruction of the Yorkshire Trench, as it was during World War I.
During the First Battle of Ypres (1914) in World War I, inexperienced German infantry suffered severe casualties when they made a futile frontal attack on allied positions near Langemark and were checked by experienced French infantry and British riflemen. Contrary to popular myth, only fifteen percent of the German soldiers involved in the Battle of Langemark were schoolboys and students. Legend has it that the German infantry sang the first stanza of what later (1919) became their national anthem "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", as they charged.
© Thomas Quine
Tyne Cot Cemetery
Tyne Cot cemetery is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world with 11,954 graves of soldiers from the Commonwealth forces.
© Paul Arps
In Flanders Field Museum
The In Flanders Field Museum is a wonderful way for students to learn about World War I. The visitor's experience is enhanced by carefully chosen exhibits and displays which include personal accounts and chronological and thematic breakdowns of the war. The artist's approach to the tragedy of the war gives the experience more depth. It is an extremely useful introduction to the history of WWI that is made accessible for younger students with original films, stories and exhibits. The museum also has its own education facility.
© Paul Arps
Hill 60, located around three miles south-east of Ypres, is not a natural feature, but was made from the spoil removed during the construction of the railway line nearby. Because it was a small area of elevated land in a flat landscape, it obviously had strategic importance in the battles in the Salient. At the front of the site there is a memorial to the 1st Australian Tunneling Company, and the plaque on this contains bullet holes. These date not from the First but the Second World War, when this area was once again fought over, although much more briefly. The plaque explains that this permanent memorial replaces one erected in 1919 by comrades of those who fell here.
© Amanda Slater
Sanctuary Wood was a refuge for troops during the war and is now a private museum featuring preserved trenches and a captivating collection of photographs. After the war a farmer returned to reclaim his land but he decided to leave a section of a British trench system as he had found it.
Reginald Blomfield's triumphal arch, designed in 1921, is the entry through the mausoleum that honours the Missing, who have no known graves. The patient lion on the top is the lion of Britain but also the lion of Flanders. It was chosen to be a memorial as it was the closest gate of the town to the fighting, and so Allied Troops would have marched past it on their way to fight. Actually, most troops passed out of the other gates of Ypres, as the Menin Gate was too dangerous due to shellfire.
© Ben Sutherland
Messines and the Pool of Peace
The Spanbroekmolen Mine Crater, also known as Lone Tree Crater, was created when a mine planted by the British Army exploded in the early hours of the morning of 7th June 1917. This signalled the launch of the Battle of Messines. The crater is now a huge water-filled mine crater and visitors can find out more about this historic event at the small museum housed in the town hall.
Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
Officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele became infamous not only for the scale of casualties, but also for the mud. In over 3 months only 5 miles of territory was gained at a cost of 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties. The memorial is very interesting and particularly moving.
Oostende is home to a well-preserved part of the German Atlantic Wall. On the Raversijde Domain you will find bunkers, storage facilities, personnel quarters, machine gun nests, dating from both world wars, which are interconnected by two kilometres of trenches.
The first tour, focuses on World War I, and shows the Aachen Battery. The Aachen Battery is the only remaining piece from the German coastal defence from the war. It was constructed to defend the Germans against possible Allied landings.
The second tour focuses on the Saltzwedel Battery from World War II.It contains several bunkers with submarine guns, anti-aircraft guns, searchlights and several cannons.
The museum also possesses a very large collection of original weapons, uniforms and personal belongings.