British WWI Somme memorial centre opens

27th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

THIEPVAL, France, Sept 27 (AFP) - A visitors' centre aimed at the tens of thousands of British tourists who visit the World War I Somme battlefield in northern France, site of one of Britain's worst tragedies, opened here Monday.

THIEPVAL, France, Sept 27 (AFP) - A visitors' centre aimed at the tens of thousands of British tourists who visit the World War I Somme battlefield in northern France, site of one of Britain's worst tragedies, opened here Monday.  

On July 1, 1916, the opening day of the Somme offensive, more than 19,000 British soldiers were killed and 38,000 others wounded - the greatest tragedy in Britain's history. Most of the British soldiers were buried on the spot.  

Between July and November 1916, about one million men died in the Somme, compared with 510,000 at Verdun to the southeast, or 558,000 at Passendale (Passchendale) in Belgium.  

An additional 500,000 men were killed in the Somme region during fighting in the spring of 1918 when Germany launched a huge counter-offensive.  

Britain built its largest war memorial at Thiepval, a 150-foot (45-meter) high arch of brick and marble that lists the names of more than 73,000 British and South African soldiers who died in the Somme with no known grave.  

The new visitors' centre offers the 160,000 tourists who visit the site each year a permanent exhibition explaining the history of the battle and World War I. A gift shop has been added, along with better parking and restrooms.  

There are some 400 Commonwealth war cemeteries in the region, honouring soldiers from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa killed during the two world wars.

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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