The souvenir tour in the Somme: a journey in the footsteps of the Great War


Remembrance tourism, does that mean anything to you? The circuit of remembrance in the Somme allows you to discover the important sites of the First World War and to pay homage to the millions of soldiers from all over the world who fought on French soil. Located on the front line, this department of Picardy was particularly marked by the Great War, with in particular the terrible battle of the Somme which killed more than a million people in 1916. The particularity of this confrontation, unlike of the Franco-German duel of Verdun, is that it was international, with the participation of soldiers from around thirty nations.

Between the towns of Péronne, Albert and Amiens, the remembrance circuit is dotted with commemorative monuments, museums, military cemeteries and vestiges of the battlefields. I visited about ten in total, out of the fifteen that make up the itinerary. A journey rich in emotions to discover a tragic period in our history, the memory of which is essential in order not to repeat the same mistakes ... These places of destruction have today become places of meditation, teaching and reconciliation , never to see such a massacre again. Understanding the past is necessary to build a future in peace and understanding among peoples.

1 / The History of the Great War in Péronne

Péronne is an excellent starting point to start the remembrance circuit. This is where the Historial de la Grande Guerre is located , a superb museum whose name derives from the association between “history” and “memorial”. Its objective is to approach the First World War in all its dimensions, both strategic and military but also social and cultural, such as daily life on the front and in the trenches and the impact of the conflict on societies. It intersects the visions of the three main fighting European countries: France, Germany and Great Britain.

The Historial is located in the Château de Péronne, a medieval building from the 13th century, besieged during the Great War. A contemporary part has been added behind the castle to accommodate the exhibition collections: a white building created by the architect Henri-Edouard Ciriani. After the visit, take a moment to walk around the Etang du Cam, a superb green setting where the reflections of the Historial are very photogenic. An ideal place to take a nature break or picnic if the weather is right.

As an introduction to the museum visit, a 20-minute documentary film retraces the history of the Great War, which is very useful for refreshing one's knowledge. The scenography of the Historial favors proximity and emotion, in particular with the soldiers' outfits and their everyday objects which are displayed on the ground, in “open pits”. A reference museum for understanding the history of the First World War and its human and social consequences.

2 / The Historial of the Great War in Thiepval and the memorial

The Historial de la Grande Guerre is in fact made up of two different museums: the first in Péronne and the second in Thiepval, about thirty kilometers to the north-west. Do not go directly from one to the other as there are many Remembrance Tour sites in between, but in any case the two are quite complementary (there is a bundled entry ticket for both visits ). The Thiepval museum is dedicated more specifically to the Battle of the Somme, which raged between July and November 1916, causing the death of more than a million combatants (approximately 420,000 British and Commonwealth allies, 203,000 French and 430,000 Germans) . Its major point of interest is a huge panorama of the first day of the clashes, July 1, 1916, produced by comic book author Joe Sacco.

Long before the opening of the second Historial Museum (in 2016), Thiepval is one of the most important commemorative monuments of the First World War. Built in 1932, it is dedicated to the Franco-British armies and to the 72,000 British soldiers who died in the Somme and whose bodies have never been found. Their names are engraved on this imposing and spectacular triumphal arch 45m high. Note: the memorial is currently under scaffolding for renovation work.

At the foot of the memorial is a cemetery where 300 French soldiers and 300 soldiers of the Commonwealth forces rest. It is located at the very site of the front line on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Franco-British offensive at the Battle of the Somme.

3 / The Somme 1916 museum in Albert

The Somme 1916 museum was one of my favorites on the remembrance circuit. It is located in the town of Albert, under the Notre-Dame de Brebières Basilica, in a former air-raid shelter used by the civilian population during the Second World War. Through an underground 250m long and 10m deep, we discover the life of soldiers in the trenches with very realistic scenes reconstructions.

The museum exhibits very rich collections of objects, military equipment, weapons, souvenirs of soldiers. A real immersion in the reality of war. Before the visit, remember to download the Musée Somme 1916 - Albert application, which provides lots of information to discover the site independently (you must do this before going down into the underground, because after that there is no longer any network ).

It is also possible to start the souvenir circuit with Albert with the Somme 1916 museum. It is a good introduction to understand the rest of the route.

4 / The Boisselle Lochnagar crater

The Lochnagar crater, in La Boisselle, is an impressive vestige of the clashes. 21 meters deep, 91 meters in diameter, it was caused by mine explosions on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The objective of the Franco-British forces was to break the German front line.

Explanatory panels throughout the crater pay homage to the soldiers who took part in the battle. A stele was also erected in tribute to the women nurses who were victims of the clashes. Every July 1, a moving remembrance ceremony takes place on the site at 7.28 a.m., to recall the start of the Battle of the Somme in this same place at the same time.

5 / The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial

At Beaumont-Hamel , a memorial commemorates the engagement of soldiers from Newfoundland, Canada. It is materialized by a statue of their symbolic animal, the caribou, which sits on a hill overlooking the site of a battlefield on the Somme. On July 1, 1916, the men of the Newfoundland Regiment came under fire from German machine guns barely emerging from the trenches and half an hour later 86% of the troops were dead or wounded.

The main interest of this site is that the marks of the trenches and the impacts of explosion have been left intact for a hundred years. Nature has done its work, filling in the holes little by little, but you can still clearly see the sinuous follow-up of the trenches. They were hollowed out in this way to protect the soldiers from row fire and the blast effect of explosions. While walking quietly on this large natural area, it is difficult to imagine the hell that reigned there a hundred years earlier. The park covers about thirty hectares and it takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to discover it and visit the interpretation center run by very welcoming Canadian guides.

6 / The Ulster tower

Each nationality (or almost) which fought in the Somme has a commemorative monument. It should also be noted that the French state has conceded possession of the premises to the combatant countries. So you're sort of entering foreign territory. Ulster Tower, located near Thiepval, pays homage to Irish soldiers. Note that at the time of the First World War, Ireland was not yet divided in two; the partition intervened in 1921 at the end of a terrible civil war. The Gothic architecture of the tower is a copy of a tower located near Belfast, where Ulster's soldiers trained. Do not hesitate to go inside, which looks like a small chapel with many homage messages left by passing Irish people. If the door is closed,

7 / The South African memorial of Longueval

The memorial in tribute to South African soldiers is erected in the heart of Delville Wood, in Longueval, on the very spot where they fought from July 15 to 20, 1916 against German forces. Ravaged by the fighting, the wood was replanted in the 1920s to accommodate the memorial. Today it is a superb place imbued with calm and serenity. In the 1980s, a museum was added to the site to commemorate the 25,000 South African volunteers who fell during the two world wars. A visit to this museum is particularly interesting because it explains well the role of African countries in the First World War, an aspect that we do not know well and which is not often mentioned.

8 / The belvedere of Friesland

How about a nature break in the midst of all these visits loaded with emotions and painful memories? The Somme is a department which conceals very beautiful landscapes, in particular along the river of the same name. Note a stopover on your route at the belvedere of Frize. Strictly speaking, it is not part of the remembrance circuit, but I find it a shame not to go there. The view over the Somme valley is sublime! If you want to go on foot for a short hike, follow the route “in the footsteps of Blaise Cendrars”, which forms an 8km loop, starting from the belvedere. The poet and writer was enlisted in the Foreign Legion and he fought in Friesland between 1914 and 1915. The chaotic relief of the hike bears witness to the violence of the bombardments of the time.

9 / The Australian Memorial and the Sir John Monash Center in Villers-Bretonneux

Like the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations, Australia joined Britain in the First World War. Its two most important battles in the Somme were that of Pozières, in July 1916 with a terrible death toll of more than 15,000, and that of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, where it succeeded in stopping the German army thus avoiding the capture of Amiens. This is where the Australian National Memorial is located as well as the Sir John Monash Center , a museum that traces the Australian experience during the conflict on the Western Front. Sir John Monash is the name of the general who led the Australian forces in 1918.

This modern museum is really very well done. Its interest goes well beyond the theme of the engagement of Australian forces because it addresses the conflict on many aspects. Its great strength lies in the many period films and multimedia content. In particular, you can see a very realistic documentary film on the war with three-dimensional screens and sound and visual effects (be careful, for young children and sensitive people, the images can be shocking).

Even if the angle of the Australian forces seems too specific to you, do not miss this visit, because it is one of the best museums on the First World War, with those of Péronne and Albert mentioned above, each in a different and complementary style. . In addition, entry is free. Don't forget to climb to the top of the memorial tower for a superb view of the surrounding countryside as far as Amiens.

10 / The underground city of Naours

The underground city of Naoursis a truly atypical site along the memory trail in the Somme. Originally, it was a vast network of underground passages, used first as quarries, then as a refuge for residents in the event of war since the 17th century. Recent archaeological excavations have unveiled more than 3,000 graffiti made by soldiers of the Great War. One would have thought that these traces had been left by combatants who came to take shelter from the bombardments, but it is not. Naours was in fact part of the sightseeing tours offered to soldiers at the rear during their rest periods. It is a relatively unknown subject, that of the leisure activities of armies during their periods of leave. It concerns many Australian soldiers, because for them it was impossible to return home,

It is really very moving to discover all these inscriptions left by soldiers during the war. Naours opened in 2020 an exhibition space dedicated to these traveling soldiers, which can be visited after the underground passages. Considerable historical research has been done to identify those who wrote graffiti and trace their personal history. Many life stories are told on panels, which allow us to put a real face on all these fighters with such a singular fate. I think I could have spent hours reading all these courses, from the most ordinary to the most extraordinary. Much more than in memorials, where we often have to be content with lists of names of missing persons, in Naours we discover extraordinary individual stories.

11 / The 14-18 Vignacourt interpretation center

During the war, Vignacourt was a logistics base at the rear, especially for the British army and its allies. A couple of farmers, Louis and Antoinette Thuillier, passionate about photography, began to draw portraits of passing soldiers, who had come to rest their periods of leave. Today, their old farm has been transformed into an interpretation center. You can visit an exceptional photo exhibition that tells the story of life at the rear, another look at the war. As in Naours, historians have done research to successfully identify the soldiers immortalized in the photos. Still fascinating life stories to discover, to better understand the reality that the protagonists of the conflict lived.

Circuit of remembrance - practical notebook

To prepare for your stay in the Somme in the footsteps of the First World War, I invite you to consult the information on the remembrance circuit, on the website of the tourist office in the Somme . To see all the sites mentioned in this article, you should allow two or three days. But you can also make a selection over a day according to your interests. These sites are easily accessible from the city of Amiens (with a car) and form a good complement to a city-trip stay in the capital of Picardy. Also read: my article on What to do in Amiens .

Guided tours . If you would like to call on a guide specializing in battlefields, contact Sylvestre Bresson, from the Terres de Mémoire agency He will be able to offer you a personalized formula according to your visit wishes.

Or sleep. You will find several accommodation offers in the two main towns along the route, Péronne and Albert , but you can also choose accommodation in a guesthouse in a village. For my part, I spent two nights at Clos du Clocher , a very pleasant guest house in the heart of the remembrance circuit, in Gueudecourt. You can enjoy the large garden and spend a moment of relaxation in the jacuzzi after a day of sightseeing.

Where to eat. As for accommodation, for catering, it is in Péronne and Albert that you will find the most options. In Péronne, I recommend the Bistrot d'Antoine, just in front of the historial, and in Albert, the Basilica, just in front of the Somme 1916 museum.

I hope this article made you want to explore these places of memory. A form of tourism necessary to better understand our history and to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought during this terrible conflict. We can thus measure the luck of being born in our time and the importance of advocating peace and good understanding between peoples. If you have visited other places of memory in France, do not hesitate to share your experience in the comments.


Remembrance tourism, does that mean anything to you? The circuit of remembrance in the Somme allows you to discover the important sites of the First World War and to pay homage to the millions of soldiers from all over the world who fought on French soil. Located on the front line, this department of Picardy was particularly marked by the Great War, with in particular the terrible battle of the Somme which killed more than a million people in 1916. The particularity of this confrontation, unlike of the Franco-German duel of Verdun, is that it was international, with the participation of soldiers from around thirty nations.

Between the towns of Péronne, Albert and Amiens, the remembrance circuit is dotted with commemorative monuments, museums, military cemeteries and vestiges of the battlefields. I visited about ten in total, out of the fifteen that make up the itinerary. A journey rich in emotions to discover a tragic period in our history, the memory of which is essential in order not to repeat the same mistakes ... These places of destruction have today become places of meditation, teaching and reconciliation , never to see such a massacre again. Understanding the past is necessary to build a future in peace and understanding among peoples.

1 / The History of the Great War in Péronne

Péronne is an excellent starting point to start the remembrance circuit. This is where the Historial de la Grande Guerre is located , a superb museum whose name derives from the association between “history” and “memorial”. Its objective is to approach the First World War in all its dimensions, both strategic and military but also social and cultural, such as daily life on the front and in the trenches and the impact of the conflict on societies. It intersects the visions of the three main fighting European countries: France, Germany and Great Britain.

The Historial is located in the Château de Péronne, a medieval building from the 13th century, besieged during the Great War. A contemporary part has been added behind the castle to accommodate the exhibition collections: a white building created by the architect Henri-Edouard Ciriani. After the visit, take a moment to walk around the Etang du Cam, a superb green setting where the reflections of the Historial are very photogenic. An ideal place to take a nature break or picnic if the weather is right.

As an introduction to the museum visit, a 20-minute documentary film retraces the history of the Great War, which is very useful for refreshing one's knowledge. The scenography of the Historial favors proximity and emotion, in particular with the soldiers' outfits and their everyday objects which are displayed on the ground, in “open pits”. A reference museum for understanding the history of the First World War and its human and social consequences.

2 / The Historial of the Great War in Thiepval and the memorial

The Historial de la Grande Guerre is in fact made up of two different museums: the first in Péronne and the second in Thiepval, about thirty kilometers to the north-west. Do not go directly from one to the other as there are many Remembrance Tour sites in between, but in any case the two are quite complementary (there is a bundled entry ticket for both visits ). The Thiepval museum is dedicated more specifically to the Battle of the Somme, which raged between July and November 1916, causing the death of more than a million combatants (approximately 420,000 British and Commonwealth allies, 203,000 French and 430,000 Germans) . Its major point of interest is a huge panorama of the first day of the clashes, July 1, 1916, produced by comic book author Joe Sacco.

Long before the opening of the second Historial Museum (in 2016), Thiepval is one of the most important commemorative monuments of the First World War. Built in 1932, it is dedicated to the Franco-British armies and to the 72,000 British soldiers who died in the Somme and whose bodies have never been found. Their names are engraved on this imposing and spectacular triumphal arch 45m high. Note: the memorial is currently under scaffolding for renovation work.

At the foot of the memorial is a cemetery where 300 French soldiers and 300 soldiers of the Commonwealth forces rest. It is located at the very site of the front line on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Franco-British offensive at the Battle of the Somme.

3 / The Somme 1916 museum in Albert

The Somme 1916 museum was one of my favorites on the remembrance circuit. It is located in the town of Albert, under the Notre-Dame de Brebières Basilica, in a former air-raid shelter used by the civilian population during the Second World War. Through an underground 250m long and 10m deep, we discover the life of soldiers in the trenches with very realistic scenes reconstructions.

The museum exhibits very rich collections of objects, military equipment, weapons, souvenirs of soldiers. A real immersion in the reality of war. Before the visit, remember to download the Musée Somme 1916 - Albert application, which provides lots of information to discover the site independently (you must do this before going down into the underground, because after that there is no longer any network ).

It is also possible to start the souvenir circuit with Albert with the Somme 1916 museum. It is a good introduction to understand the rest of the route.

4 / The Boisselle Lochnagar crater

The Lochnagar crater, in La Boisselle, is an impressive vestige of the clashes. 21 meters deep, 91 meters in diameter, it was caused by mine explosions on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The objective of the Franco-British forces was to break the German front line.

Explanatory panels throughout the crater pay homage to the soldiers who took part in the battle. A stele was also erected in tribute to the women nurses who were victims of the clashes. Every July 1, a moving remembrance ceremony takes place on the site at 7.28 a.m., to recall the start of the Battle of the Somme in this same place at the same time.

5 / The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial

At Beaumont-Hamel , a memorial commemorates the engagement of soldiers from Newfoundland, Canada. It is materialized by a statue of their symbolic animal, the caribou, which sits on a hill overlooking the site of a battlefield on the Somme. On July 1, 1916, the men of the Newfoundland Regiment came under fire from German machine guns barely emerging from the trenches and half an hour later 86% of the troops were dead or wounded.

The main interest of this site is that the marks of the trenches and the impacts of explosion have been left intact for a hundred years. Nature has done its work, filling in the holes little by little, but you can still clearly see the sinuous follow-up of the trenches. They were hollowed out in this way to protect the soldiers from row fire and the blast effect of explosions. While walking quietly on this large natural area, it is difficult to imagine the hell that reigned there a hundred years earlier. The park covers about thirty hectares and it takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to discover it and visit the interpretation center run by very welcoming Canadian guides.

6 / The Ulster tower

Each nationality (or almost) which fought in the Somme has a commemorative monument. It should also be noted that the French state has conceded possession of the premises to the combatant countries. So you're sort of entering foreign territory. Ulster Tower, located near Thiepval, pays homage to Irish soldiers. Note that at the time of the First World War, Ireland was not yet divided in two; the partition intervened in 1921 at the end of a terrible civil war. The Gothic architecture of the tower is a copy of a tower located near Belfast, where Ulster's soldiers trained. Do not hesitate to go inside, which looks like a small chapel with many homage messages left by passing Irish people. If the door is closed,

7 / The South African memorial of Longueval

The memorial in tribute to South African soldiers is erected in the heart of Delville Wood, in Longueval, on the very spot where they fought from July 15 to 20, 1916 against German forces. Ravaged by the fighting, the wood was replanted in the 1920s to accommodate the memorial. Today it is a superb place imbued with calm and serenity. In the 1980s, a museum was added to the site to commemorate the 25,000 South African volunteers who fell during the two world wars. A visit to this museum is particularly interesting because it explains well the role of African countries in the First World War, an aspect that we do not know well and which is not often mentioned.

8 / The belvedere of Friesland

How about a nature break in the midst of all these visits loaded with emotions and painful memories? The Somme is a department which conceals very beautiful landscapes, in particular along the river of the same name. Note a stopover on your route at the belvedere of Frize. Strictly speaking, it is not part of the remembrance circuit, but I find it a shame not to go there. The view over the Somme valley is sublime! If you want to go on foot for a short hike, follow the route “in the footsteps of Blaise Cendrars”, which forms an 8km loop, starting from the belvedere. The poet and writer was enlisted in the Foreign Legion and he fought in Friesland between 1914 and 1915. The chaotic relief of the hike bears witness to the violence of the bombardments of the time.

9 / The Australian Memorial and the Sir John Monash Center in Villers-Bretonneux

Like the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations, Australia joined Britain in the First World War. Its two most important battles in the Somme were that of Pozières, in July 1916 with a terrible death toll of more than 15,000, and that of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, where it succeeded in stopping the German army thus avoiding the capture of Amiens. This is where the Australian National Memorial is located as well as the Sir John Monash Center , a museum that traces the Australian experience during the conflict on the Western Front. Sir John Monash is the name of the general who led the Australian forces in 1918.

This modern museum is really very well done. Its interest goes well beyond the theme of the engagement of Australian forces because it addresses the conflict on many aspects. Its great strength lies in the many period films and multimedia content. In particular, you can see a very realistic documentary film on the war with three-dimensional screens and sound and visual effects (be careful, for young children and sensitive people, the images can be shocking).

Even if the angle of the Australian forces seems too specific to you, do not miss this visit, because it is one of the best museums on the First World War, with those of Péronne and Albert mentioned above, each in a different and complementary style. . In addition, entry is free. Don't forget to climb to the top of the memorial tower for a superb view of the surrounding countryside as far as Amiens.

10 / The underground city of Naours

The underground city of Naoursis a truly atypical site along the memory trail in the Somme. Originally, it was a vast network of underground passages, used first as quarries, then as a refuge for residents in the event of war since the 17th century. Recent archaeological excavations have unveiled more than 3,000 graffiti made by soldiers of the Great War. One would have thought that these traces had been left by combatants who came to take shelter from the bombardments, but it is not. Naours was in fact part of the sightseeing tours offered to soldiers at the rear during their rest periods. It is a relatively unknown subject, that of the leisure activities of armies during their periods of leave. It concerns many Australian soldiers, because for them it was impossible to return home,

It is really very moving to discover all these inscriptions left by soldiers during the war. Naours opened in 2020 an exhibition space dedicated to these traveling soldiers, which can be visited after the underground passages. Considerable historical research has been done to identify those who wrote graffiti and trace their personal history. Many life stories are told on panels, which allow us to put a real face on all these fighters with such a singular fate. I think I could have spent hours reading all these courses, from the most ordinary to the most extraordinary. Much more than in memorials, where we often have to be content with lists of names of missing persons, in Naours we discover extraordinary individual stories.

11 / The 14-18 Vignacourt interpretation center

During the war, Vignacourt was a logistics base at the rear, especially for the British army and its allies. A couple of farmers, Louis and Antoinette Thuillier, passionate about photography, began to draw portraits of passing soldiers, who had come to rest their periods of leave. Today, their old farm has been transformed into an interpretation center. You can visit an exceptional photo exhibition that tells the story of life at the rear, another look at the war. As in Naours, historians have done research to successfully identify the soldiers immortalized in the photos. Still fascinating life stories to discover, to better understand the reality that the protagonists of the conflict lived.

Circuit of remembrance - practical notebook

To prepare for your stay in the Somme in the footsteps of the First World War, I invite you to consult the information on the remembrance circuit, on the website of the tourist office in the Somme . To see all the sites mentioned in this article, you should allow two or three days. But you can also make a selection over a day according to your interests. These sites are easily accessible from the city of Amiens (with a car) and form a good complement to a city-trip stay in the capital of Picardy. Also read: my article on What to do in Amiens .

Guided tours . If you would like to call on a guide specializing in battlefields, contact Sylvestre Bresson, from the Terres de Mémoire agency He will be able to offer you a personalized formula according to your visit wishes.

Or sleep. You will find several accommodation offers in the two main towns along the route, Péronne and Albert , but you can also choose accommodation in a guesthouse in a village. For my part, I spent two nights at Clos du Clocher , a very pleasant guest house in the heart of the remembrance circuit, in Gueudecourt. You can enjoy the large garden and spend a moment of relaxation in the jacuzzi after a day of sightseeing.

Where to eat. As for accommodation, for catering, it is in Péronne and Albert that you will find the most options. In Péronne, I recommend the Bistrot d'Antoine, just in front of the historial, and in Albert, the Basilica, just in front of the Somme 1916 museum.

I hope this article made you want to explore these places of memory. A form of tourism necessary to better understand our history and to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought during this terrible conflict. We can thus measure the luck of being born in our time and the importance of advocating peace and good understanding between peoples. If you have visited other places of memory in France, do not hesitate to share your experience in the comments.

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