It is a short drive from the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel to the Anglo-French Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval. Thiepval was one of the fortress villages held by the Germans on the Somme front in 1916 and the memorial bears the names of 72,194 officers and men of United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the area and have no known grave. The memorial is the largest and most imposing of the Memorials to the Missing, and as is the case at all the memorials Sonya and I visit, being here is a moving and sobering experience. Over 90 percent of those commemorated died in the 1916 Battle of the Somme between July and November, 1916.
The names of the men missing in action on the Somme battlefield are inscribed on 64 huge stone panels, which form each of the four faces of a total of 16 piers for the building. As illustrated in the photograph below, a Stone of Remembrance is situated in the raised section at the heart of the Thiepval Memorial in the centre point of the arch. The Stone of Remembrance, also known as the War Stone, is a feature of most British and Commonwealth military cemeteries and memorials. Carved on every Stone of Remembrance are the words, “Their Name Liveth For Evermore”.
One of the names that captured my attention on the memorial was that of D. Robins. My Dad’s initials, it is very likely that they belonged to an English relative in one of the various branches of the family. (Later I learned that the inscription is for Dennis Robins, a private in the Northamptonshire Regiment who died on July 22, 1916.) As it turned out there are 6 different Robins listed on the Thiepval Monument to the Missing. Five of the six were just twenty-one when they died, and Dennis had just turned twenty.
The nearby Commonwealth War Graves cemetery is an unusual one. It was designed with the aim of creating a mixed cemetery with an equal number of British and French graves. There are 300 Commonwealth soldiers buried here and 300 French, and almost all of these are unidentified. Usually French First World War casualties are buried in a cemetery specifically designated as a French national military cemetery.
Next up for our group was the nearby Thiepval Visitor Centre. It is intended to provide visitors with additional information about the Battle of the Somme and the Great War, and it houses a permanent trilingual exhibition of texts, photos, and videos, as well as a bookshop. This is the kind of place where I could easily spend several hours, but we only had about 15 minutes before moving on to the Canadian Memorial at Courcelette.
The pictures which follow are from our Somme Battlefields collection. They can also be viewed separately from the Photo Gallery menu above. Click on any image for a full description.