Visiting the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France, some years ago, we were struck by the massive columns that form the base of this structure.
On each face are inscribed the names of all those lost in the engagements across a large portion of the lines. It in fact pays homage to 72,195 missing British and South African men, who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918.
Perhaps more striking is the fact that the names appearing are for those whose bodies were never found!
However, a large inscription on part of the memorial reads:
“Here are recorded names of officers and men of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918 but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.”
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial was built between 1928 and 1932 and is the largest British battle memorial in the world.
The memorial dominates the rural scene and has 16 brick piers, faced with Portland stone. The main arch is aligned east to west. The memorial is 140 feet high.
It is a complex form of memorial arch, comprising interlocking arches of four sizes. The design results in 16 piers, having 64 stone-panelled sides. Only 48 of these are inscribed, as the panels around the outside of the memorial are blank.
On the top of the archway, a French inscription reads: Aux armées Française et Britannique l’Empire Britannique reconnaissant (To the French and British Armies, from the grateful British Empire).
Very humbling, I must say.