Northern France _ Villers-Bretonneux _ Sir John Monash Centre _ Memorial © Crt Hauts De France Nicolas BryantNorthern France _ Villers-Bretonneux _ Sir John Monash Centre _ Memorial © Crt Hauts De France Nicolas Bryant
©Northern France, Villers-Bretonneux, Sir John Monash Centre, Memorial|Hauts-de-France Tourisme - Nicolas Bryant

12 places of Remembrance in Northern France

The Paris 2024 Olympics will see many nations brought together by their love for sport. A time of international brotherhood that might give some an opportunity to remember and pay tribute to those, from all nations, who fought in Northern France over a hundred years ago. Remembering the sacrifice of these men is not only our duty but also contributes to build a lasting peace together.

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©Northern France, Thiepval, British and French flags|Hauts-de-France Tourisme - Progress Films
Site #1

World Rugby Memorial at Chemin des Dames

Located near chemin des Dames in the Aisne, The World Rugby Memorial is quite unique. Inaugurated on 16 September 2017, “The Ribbons of Memory” is a memorial created by Jean-Pierre-Rives, former captain of the French team. On it, a plaque honouring 2 Scots, 6 English, 44 French as well as members of the French military team, all high-level players, who died on the Chemin des Dames.

Just 1,5 miles away, the museum of the Caverne du Dragon, under the Chemin des Dames is a must-see. Originally, this Dragon’s Cave was a stone quarry. The Germans, who took possession of it in 1915, nicknamed it “Drachenhöle” perhaps because of the seven openings spitting out machine-gun fire. More than a hiding place, the cavern was a strategic location fiercely disputed during the war. The visit tells you about the history of the place and the lives of the soldiers in these caves during WW1.

Site #2

Thiepval the largest British memorial in the world



Thiepval is the largest British memorial in the world.

On 1 July 1916 the Battle of the Somme began. This was to become the deadliest battle in the history of the war. The first day ended in a massacre; the slaughter only stopped in November 1916. The recognisable and nominable dead were buried in the surrounding cemeteries but more than half of them have no known grave: the missings of the Somme. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission then commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens (architect of the London Cenotaph) to build a memorial for them that was inaugurated in 1932. On the memorial’s 64 stone panels are inscribed the names of 72,316 fallen soldiers that are “known unto God” (most of them British and South African).

A few metres away you will find the Thiepval museum (managed by the Historial de la Grande guerre), which retraces this very special battle.

Site #3

The Australian Memorial of Villiers-Bretonneux

In April 1918, the tiny town of Villers Bretonneux became one of the most important strategic points on the front, located a few kilometres from Amiens, threatened by the German army, its fall would have allowed the Axis to control the region and advance towards Paris and victory. Thousands of Australian soldiers were assigned the task of helping the British force retake the place. On the eve of ANZAC on 24 April the Australians retook the town at a cost of more than 1,200 lives.

The Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, honours the names of 11,000 Australian soldiers who died for France during the First World War.

Inaugurated in 2018, the Sir John Monash Centre presents rich video content and artefact that will take you on the footsteps of the Australian soldiers during WW1. It will take you to the heart of the conflict and reveal the greatness of the sacrifice of these men who died far from their homelands in the name of freedom.

Site #4

The Bronze Elk of Beaumont Hamel

During World War I, Newfoundland was a British dominion. On 1 July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, 710 Newfoundlanders lost their lives.

In their honour, 6 bronze statues were cast by the British sculptor Basil Gotto. 4 are in France, 1 in Belgium and 1 in St Jean, the capital of Newfoundland. They represent a Caribou, the emblem on the soldiers’ uniforms.

The monument faces the direction taken by the Terran soldiers during the assault. At the base of it are inscribed the names of those Newfoundlanders who died in the First World War and who have no known grave.

The park covers 39 hectares and was inaugurated in 1925, it is one of the best-preserved battlefields on the Somme. The terrain still bears the scars of the bombings and the trench lines are still visible today.

Site #5

Delville Wood memorial to never forgets the deville Wood day

On 14 July 1916 in the heart of Delville Wood more than 3,000 soldiers of the South African Brigade were sent into one of the toughest battles on the Somme. Facing them were nearly 7000 Germans. The objective was to take back the woods from the Axis “no matter what”. The battle was fought in the rain and mud with the artillery fire incessant shooting – a real hell.

South African soldiers emerged victorious from this battle but at the cost of many deaths, of the 3155 soldiers who started the battle, 1080 were killed and 1735 wounded.

The South African National Memorial at Delville Wood in Longueval was built to honour the sacrifice of the South African troops during WW1. Next to the memorial, a museum retraces the history of South Africa’s participation in the First and Second World Wars and the various Cold War conflicts. Just a stone throw away, Delville Wood Cemetery is the third largest British cemetery on the Somme battlefields, honouring the memory of 5,521 men.

Site #6

Longueval Monument to honor New Zealand soldiers

This memorial is dedicated to the New Zealand Division. It stands on the site where the Battle of Flers was fought on 15th September 1916, a victorious assault of the New-Zeleanders during the first battle of the Somme.

The memorial consists of a huge white column on a stepped base with panels at the base on each side. At the base of this panel is a drawing of a Maori sculpture surrounding the words New Zealand and a fern leaf below which the words ‘From the uttermost ends of the earth‘ are engraved. A poignant reminder of the sacrifice of these men so far away from home.

Site #7

Belleau Wood to pay tribute the courageous American soldiers

On 27 May 1918, the Germans sent a vast offensive from the Chemin des Dames. The French troops were overwhelmed and felt that defeat was imminent as the Axis seized Château Thierry, just 25miles from Paris. It was urgent to stop their advance. The French then called for the help for the American Expeditionary force. This was the first time that these troops were involved in the conflict. During the battle Belleau Woods, the American troops took position of the woods. This marks the start of the German retreat. However victorious, the battle was particularly bloody and remained the deadliest in US military history until WW2.

To honour these men, a cemetery of 2289 graves and a memorial chapel in which the names of 1,060 soldiers with no known grave are engraved were erected. The memorial was defined in 1921 by the US Congress as one of eight permanent World War I cemeteries on foreign soil. It is managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).

If you are interested in American history, don’t miss Cote 204 Memorial and visitor center in Château-Thierry. It tells the story of the American troops during WW1 in France and in the Aisne area.

An hour-drive north of Château Thierry, the Franco-American museum at château de Blérancourt celebrates the friendship between France and the US and retraces the story of Anne Morgan and her “Amercian committee for devasted France” that was of huge support to local populations during and after the war.

Site #8

The Welsh red dragon of Mametz

The 38th Welsh Division Memorial stands in Mametz Wood, near the town of Albert.

Forged by David Peterson of Carmarthen, this beautiful monument commemorates the Welsh who fell in the Battle of Mametz Wood in July 1916 during the First Battle of the Somme. Between 7 and 12th July 1916, the 38th Welsh division fought heroically to retake the woods to the German troops. They were finally successful, but the Welsh suffered over 4,000 casualties in the process.

Unveiled on 11 July 1987, the monument depicts a red dragon, the symbol of Wales. The dragon is facing the woods and crushing barbed wire with his claws

Site #9

The cemetery of Etaples to mourn and never forget

Military Cemetery was built on the site of the British military camp of the First World War.

From 1915 to 1918, an estimated two million men and women transited through the training camp and hospitals. At the height of its existence, an estimated 100,000 people of all nationalities were permanently in the camp : English, Irish, Canadians, New Zealanders, Indians, South Africans, Germans, Chinese, Belgians and many others.

The cemetery was designed by the architect Sir Edwin Liutyens, as a ‘cathedral cemetery’ and houses the graves of nearly 11,400 people who fought in the 1st GFM and also in the 2nd World War.

The place, vast, silent and majestic, invites commemoration.

Site #10

Wellington Quarry remembers a turning point in the war

At the end of 1916, the battle of Arras was looming. The strategy was to create a diversion so that the assault of the French troops on the Chemin des Dames further south of the frontline would be a success.

The New Zealand Tunnellers Company was charged with building an underground network of about 20 kilometres linking together the pre-existing quarries underneath the town of Arras.

On 9th April 1917, the day before the attack, 24,000 soldiers were getting ready for the assault in the quarries, 20 meters below ground. The battle of Arras lasted 39 days and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Site #11

The Armistice’s Clearing, a ticket for history



This iconic place forever symbolizes the end of WW1.

Marshal Foch received a German delegation in the famous wagon at 2.15 am on 11 November. At 5.15 am the Armistice was signed.

The wagon is the Symbol of the end of one hell and the beginning of another. On June 22, 1940, the French signed their surrender to Hitler in this very car. The dictator demanded that the latter be taken to Germany and that the elements of the glade, except for the statue of Marechal Foch, be destroyed.

You will find in the memorial of Compiegne a completely rehabilitated museum which presents the course of the war. You will also find an exact replica of the famous wagon as well as original objects that were used during the signing of the German surrender.

A great national commemoration is held yearly on November 11th.

Site #12

The CWGC experience

The CWGC Experience is a unique new visitor attraction in Beaurains, near Arras. It shines a light on the remarkable work of the CWGC, the organization at the heart of remembrance of the war dead. Visitors are given a chance to take a look behind-the-scenes at the work needed to commemorate the Commonwealth casualties from the First and Second World Wars.

The visit will take you through each aspect of the work done by the organization: from the story of how formerly unknown soldiers are identified and reburied with the military honors, to the work of skilled artisan craftsmen maintaining the world’s most impressive and recognisable war monuments and memorials (gardeners, stonemasons etc). The CWGC experience is a must-stop on your exploration of the battlefields of the Western front.

A tailor-made experience on the footsteps of a relative

For bespoke tours in the footsteps of a relative who served on the western front, you can contact Tommy Atkins tours. They’ll do research to trace your ancestors’ itinerary during the war and will guide you on a personal circuit to the battlefields.