First World War battlefields
Any visit to Picardy and the northern coast of France is sure to elicit emotion. The Somme is, of course, one of the most compelling and emotionally charged destinations in all of France, with the legacy of the Battle of the Somme during the First World War leaving an indelible mark on both the memory and the landscape.
Thousands upon thousands of travellers pay tribute to the troops that fell during the conflict, with a host of memorial sites ensuring that the horrors of war, and those who gave their lives, will never be forgotten.
Explore hidden horrors
A visit to the Somme cannot fail to conjure images of the misery of trench warfare: young men hunkered in wet trenches, the sound of gunfire overhead. Visiting the battlefields of the Somme today, the true extent of wartime horror is well disguised, with lush, green fields where the trenches once stood.
Instead, it’s the memorial sites that convey the scale of the atrocities suffered during the Battle of the Somme. Walking over the landscape, the sheer volume of commemorative plaques and crosses in place to mark the fallen soldiers is deeply moving, with the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme one of the most haunting sites to discover.
Follow the Chemin des Dames
The Chemin des Dames – or, the ladies’ path – is a 30 km stretch of pathway running between the rivers of Aisne and Ailette. The strategic importance of the road became prominent during the era of Napoleon, but during the First World War, it would play an integral role in the conflict.
Following the route of the Chemin des Dames, it’s possible to discover the scene of the three monumental battles of the Aisne, which took place in 1914, 1917, and 1918. War memorials can be discovered along the route, with each paying respect to the soldiers that perished.
In addition to the memorials, the Chemin des Dames ridge stands above a famous cave network known as the Dragon’s Lair. Set nearly 40 metres below the surface, these caves were used by both French and German troops as command stations and field hospitals, nursing those injured during the conflicts. Guided tours operate within the cave network to uncover its secrets and reveal the stories of those that served during the Great War.