It won’t be long before the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. My family and I love learning about history, and we found the Battlefields to be a great way of inspiring our kids to remember what happened during the war. Take a look at our list for the Battlefields we think are worth a visit.
In 1916 the British and French army began an offensive on the German Empire. With a strategy of mass bombardment, the UK commander, Douglas Haig, believed that his troops would simply be able to walk over no man’s land and take the German trenches. He was wrong.
The first day saw the British Army suffer catastrophic casualties and remains one of the worst in military history, with roughly 20,000 men killed and an additional 35,000 wounded.
After your 35 minute journey with Eurotunnel le Shuttle, the memorial for the Battle of Somme is only an hour and a half from the Calais terminal, and an easy drive along the A26. From there you can tour the other popular destinations of Loos Battlefield, Vimy Ridge and Thiepval. These are a blend of both British and French front lines and most tours hand out trench maps to show important locations during the war.
If you’re focussed on a specific location there are tours for single battlefields, though many combine the Somme and Ypres in one tour.
The battle at Ypres took place both in the surrounding countryside and within the city centre. The city was bombed continuously for large parts of the war and most of Ypres needed to be rebuilt. The extent of the attacks was so severe that it wasn’t until the 1960’s that monuments, such as Cloth Hall, were back to their original best.
When visiting the city it’s important to remember that landmarks are split between the town centre and the surrounding countryside. These include the Memorial Museum Passchendaele, Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Vladso German Cemetery.
While the cemeteries leave you speechless and unable to comprehend the loss, the Museum takes you into the mind of a soldier. Despite being in a beautiful setting, the museum is located in a reconstructed dug-out giving you a feeling of being in the trenches.
The 100th year anniversary will remind us all of what happened between 1914 and 1916. However, the battlefields hold an atmosphere that can’t be taught or created in a museum. It’s for this reason that so many people chose to take a tour and experience the battlefields in person.
Touring past battlefields is also a great way to get your kids to interact with history and to remember what happened all those years ago. Eurotunnel takes you to France in 35 minutes, so the battlefields in France are just a few hours drive away.
Photo Credits: Tyne Cot Cemetery in Ypres by John Spooner