The Somme – Museums
There are many excellent museums spread right across the Somme Battlefield. The following three are particularly recommended. (Information accurate as of February 2010.)
Please follow website links for information on opening times and admission charges.
Newfoundland Memorial Park Visitors' Centre
Rue de l'église, 80300 Beaumont-Hamel
Tel: +33 (0)322 76 70 86
This is very good small museum that has recently opened. As well as looking at the history of the Newfoundland Regiment and the part it played in the fighting on the Western Front, the museum also provides some detail on the lives these men left behind – most were from fishing, hunting or farming backgrounds. Guided tours can also be booked from here as well as via the email address on the above website.
The "lodge style" museum, Newfoundland Memorial Park. Photo: Mark Sluman
South African National Memorial Museum
Mémorial Sud-Africain de Delville Wood
Route de Ginchy
Tel: +33 (0)322 85 02 17
This arrestingly designed museum was opened by President P. W. Botha on 11th November 1986 and is a replica of the Fort of Good Hope in Cape Town. It commemorates 25,000 South Africans who lost their lives in the two world wars and in Korea. Particularly poignant is the bas relief, "The Sixth Day" by Danie de Jager which depicts the dazed survivors of the 1st South African Brigade leaving Delville Wood.
"The Sixth Day" by Danie de Jager inside the South African National Memorial Museum. Photo: Mark Sluman. Click on image for full size (253 KB).
The Thiepval Visitor Centre
8 rue de l'Ancre
Tel: +33 (0)322 74 60 47
The Thiepval Memorial Centre was opened in 2004 following many years of fund-raising on both sides of the Channel. Its stated aim was to provide a "discreet building where visitors could not only find historical information about Thiepval and what it represents, but also rest, reflect and find refreshment and associated facilities in a suitable setting". This the Visitor Centre has certainly achieved and offers, in my opinion, the best place to get a concise view of what happened in the Battle of the Somme in the context of the war in general. Storyboards take the visitors step-by-step through the war and the 1916 battle and a small film theatre recounts the events visually. The bookshop itself is well recommended for its superb collection of First World War literature.
The exterior of the Visitor Centre was designed to be as unobtrusive as possible so as not to clash visually with Sir Edwin Lutyen's masterpiece. Photo: Mark Sluman
Historial de la Grande Guerre (Péronne, Somme, Picardie)
Château de Péronne
F-80201 Péronne cedex
Tel: +33 (0)3 22 83 14 18
The Historial museum of the Great War is located in the heart of the Somme battlefields. It has a great collection and presents the causes and consequences of the Great War.
The Historial de la Grande Guerre. Photo © François Bergez. Click on image for full size (151 KB).