The Ancre Heights (& Thiepval Memorial): At the beginning of the battle, from Serre at the northern end of the battlefield to Fricourt in the south, the main thrust of British attacks was roughly eastwards. Dominating the central part of the battefield were the Ancre Heights which included teh fortified village and chateau at Thiepval and the Schwaben redoubt (where the Ulster Tower now stands). The direction of the battle was changed by the capture of Mametz and Montauban on 1st July. Thiepval was taken from the south on 26th September. The Schwaben Redoubt fell on 13th October. By mid-November, after the Battle of the Ancre Heights, the British finally prized control of the high ground from the Germans. In March, 1917 the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line.
The Accrington Pals’ Trench at Serre: At the northern end of the Somme battlefield the 31st Division, consisting of Pals' battalions drawn from Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley, Sheffield, Durham and Accrington, were allotted the task of capturing the village of Serre. Within minutes of zero hour, the Division had lost over 5,000 men. Nowhere was the impact of such losses more keenly felt than in Accrington which had been the smallest town in Britain to raise its own battalion. The remains of the front line, from which they and other northern Pals' Battalions, attacked can still be discerned. The cemeteries in the old No Man's Land are testament to their loss. The ground at Serre offers excellent orientation views towards the Quadrilateral and Newfoundland Park.
Newfoundland Park: This preserved battlefield is the site of the ill-fated assault by the Newfoundland Regiment which was virtually destroyed as it attacked the German lines at "Y" Ravine. The opposing trenches remain and the ground between still bears the scars of shell-fire. "Y" Ravine Cemetery was the approximate location of a German machine-gun position. The park also contains the Caribou Memorial to the Newfoundlanders, the 51st Highland Division Memorial and the Danger Tree; beyond which advancing troops came under the sights of the spandau in "Y" Ravine.
The Ulster Tower: Built as a Memorial to the 36th Ulster Division, the Tower stands on what was the site of the Schwaben Redoubt on the German front line. Whilst the Ulsters managed to penetrate deep into the German lines, the failure of the assaults on both their flanks left them isolated and exposed to enfilading fire which prevented reinforcement and they were forced to retire. Half the Division became casualties. The front line positions of the Ulster Division lay along the edge of Thiepval Wood opposite the Tower.
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme: Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, Thiepval is the largest Memorial of its kind and commemorates the 74,000 men who died on the Somme and who have no known grave. The cemetery containing 300 British and French casualties symbolises the Alliance of the two countries as well as their loss during the Great War. The Thiepval position was a dominating one for the German defenders and the 32nd Division assault foundered quickly with very few of the British troops even reaching the uncut German wire.
Crucifix Corner: This location is the site of a wayside shrine which many troops going into and out of the front line would have marched past. The modern crucifix has replaced the original one that stood here during the First World War. On the first day of the Somme the fields in front of the crucifix were full of British casualties who had been brought back by stretcher bearers. Reinforcements had to pass these men as they went forward.
La Boisselle & Lochnagar Crater: In addition to the "redoubts" the Germans fortified nine villages along their front line. One such village, La Boisselle stands on the opposite side of the Albert-Bapaume road to Ovillers and "Mash" Valley. The Tyneside Scottish Brigade of the 34th Division was decimated as it attacked the village. The Lochnagar Crater near La Boisselle was created by 90,000 lbs of explosives set off under the German lines. The crater is ninety feet deep. This position offers excellent observation of the ground over which the Tyneside Irish Brigade advanced from their reserve line at a cost of nearly 3,000 casualties.
Devonshire Cemetery: Men of the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Devonshire Regiment are buried in this cemetery. They were buried on 4th July, 1916 in what was part of their old front line trench in Mansel Copse. Amongst the casualties are the poet Lieutenant Noel Hodgson MC and Captain Duncan Martin. Martin believed that the German machine-gun situated in the civil cemetery at Mametz would inflict great damage during the attack on the morning of the 1st July. His fears were borne out by events. Like the Gordon Cemetery, nearby this is a regimental cemetery. All but two of the 163 men buried here belonged to the Devonshires. The Memorial at the entrance to the cemetery is particularly poignant.
Australian 1st Division Memorial, Pozières Ridge: Australia raised five divisions during the First World War. They were amongst the best troops on the Western Front. In the late July of 1916 they were given the task of capturing Pozières Ridge, a key feature of the German second line. In two weeks of fighting between 23rd July & the 4th August, 1916, the Australians lost 23,000 men in taking the position. In further fighting to the north-west of Pozières, around Mouquet Farm – the German advanced HQ on the Somme at the start of the battle – they suffered a further 6,500 casualties. It was said of Pozieres that Australian troops “fell more thickly on this ridge than on any other battlefield of the war.”
The Vimy Ridge Canadian Memorial: The Memorial was built on what was Hill 145 overlooking the Douai Plain. Made from Dalmatian stone the Memorial is one of the most impressive on the Western Front. The two pylons represent France and Canada with one bearing maple leaves and the other fleur-de-lys.
Vimy Ridge Reconstructed Canadian & German Trenches: In advance of their main defence line, the Canadians brought their forward observation line as close as possible to the first German position. Now separated only by the craters of the mines detonated prior to the Canadian assault, the trenches of both sides have been reconstructed complete with concrete duckboards and sandbagging, sniper shields and firing steps. The Interpretive Centre at Vimy Ridge is close to the trenches. It includes a short audio-visual display explaining the battle, photographs and artefacts together with displays explaining Canada’s role in the First World War.
Exit from the Grange Tunnel: This image of the Vimy trenches in winter was taken near the Grange Tunnel. At the time of the battle this would have been the exit point for Canadian troops leaving the safety of the tunnel in readiness to attack what was left of the German front line. The tunnel can be visited between April and November (weather permitting). Canadian guides provide a commentary explaining the preparations made before the battle and visitors can see the communications room, officers’ quarters and waterpoint along with the remains of rifles, helmets and other equipment recovered from the battlefield.