Northern France _ Beaumont-Hamel _ Memorial Terre-neuve © CRT Hauts-de-France _ Nicolas BryantNorthern France _ Beaumont-Hamel, Newfoundland Memorial, trenches
©Northern France, Beaumont-Hamel, Newfoundland Memorial, trenches|Hauts-de-France Tourisme - Nicolas Bryant

Two immersive experiences that help ‘relive’ the experience of the trenches

How did French soldiers survive in the trenches? Fear, sleep deprivation, hunger, chores and death punctuated their daily lives. Two immersive experiences will help you understand at least some of how they must have felt.

Northern France _ Beaumont-Hamel _ Trenches © CRTC Hauts-de-France _ Guillaume CrochezNorthern France, Beaumont-Hamel, Trenches
©Northern France, Beaumont-Hamel, Trenches|Hauts-de-France Tourisme - Guillaume Crochez
1st experience

The Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel

Le Mémorial Terre-neuvien is an unmissable site with free daily guided tours by Canadian students. Children (and all ages) are impressed by the size of the trenches – the most well preserved in the Somme, some of them still accessible – and by the shell holes still clearly visible in the terrain. From a plane, you can even still see the front line.

As an homage to the Newfoundland soldiers, trees were brought from across the Atlantic to line the path leading to the hill where a statue of a proud caribou – the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s mascot – was erected in 1925. The visitor centre invites all ages to learn more about the history of Newfoundland and of those who came from so far afield to fight on French battlefields.

2nd experience

Musée Somme 1916

In the town of Albert, this museum also offers an immersive insight into daily life in the trenches. Occupying a 13th-century tunnel that later served as an air-raid shelter during World War II, it features life-size tableaux that convey the human dimension of the conflict through soldiers’ personal items. You’ll be moved by the extreme conditions they endured – cold, sleep deprivation, rats – and appreciate the courage they must have rustled up to combat the mental and physical pressures of violent attacks, often in the night, but also of long periods of waiting. That in turn makes one understand sudden outbursts of profoundly human brotherliness such as the famous Christmas celebration shared in the no-man’s land between enemy trenches in 1915.

Before heading back up to Albert’s arboretum public garden, crossed by the Ancre river, you’ll go through a sound-and-light exhibit retracing a night under artillery fire. The town of Albert suffered hugely during World War I, but its inhabitants’ ability to rise to challenges pathed the way to bold architectural innovations, in the form of 260 Art Deco facades that now stand where the Germans left ruins in 1918. Indeed, when the war ended, the entire Hauts-de-France region entered into an optimistic period of economic and artistic revival resulting in reconstruction and reinvention, and Art Deco concrete friezes, canopies and bow windows can be seen from Béthune to Maubeuge via Bruay la Buissière, Saint-Quentin, Lens and Arras.

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