by Janis / 0 comments

From Wilfred Owen to the Thiepval Memorial

Our mini road trip of remembrance continued south, and we left Ypres in Belgium to head into France, touring across the poignant countryside on our way to the cathedral city of Amiens.

This particular region of Belgium and France is cloaked in so much history, it almost feels like every road you travel along another touching cemetery can be found. With this in mind we’d planned quite a few stops along the way, spending time visiting these often-solitary memorials of remembrance.

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Where are Ors and Thiepval?

How to get to there

- By Car
If you’re venturing from the UK, jump on Le Shuttle and tour France under your own steam.
Alternatively, it’s so easy to visit on a road trip. Rental Cars searches multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

Remembering Wilfred Owen

The English poet and WWI soldier

During our remembrance road trip through northern France, there was one small village that Gary really wanted to visit, and that was Ors and the Sambre–Oise Canal. Ors witnessed some horrific intense fighting during World War I, especially in November 1918.

Through Gary’s High School days, he studied the works of the English poet Wilfred Owen, and it was in Ors in northern France that Wilfred Owen lost his life during the crossing of Sambre–Oise Canal in World War I.

The long straight still Sambre–Oise Canal in Ors, France
The Sambre–Oise Canal, Ors, France

The renowned war poet Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who had received the Military Cross, was part of the Manchester Regiment. His touching war poetry reflected the horrors of battling in the trenches and their suffering.

He fought alongside his fellow comrades at Sambre–Oise Canal, which saw one of the last Allied victories of World War I, prior to the Armistice with Germany.

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Wilfred Owen came so bitterly close

One week prior to Armistice
Unfortunately, young Wilfred Owen tragically lost his life on 4th November 1918 aged 25, just one week before World War I came to an end at 11am on 11th November 1918.
The lock, and a road bridge over it, on the Sambre–Oise Canal in Ors, France
Sambre–Oise Canal locks
Wilfred Owen is buried alongside his fellow soldiers in the small Communal Cemetery in Ors. Our timing could have been better when visiting here, as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was doing a fabulous job of maintain and attending to the headstones.
The Commonwealth War Graves headstone to Wilfred Owen in the Ors Cemetery in France
Headstone of Wilfred Owen
Craftsmen working on the headstones in the Commonwealth War Graves section of Communal Cemetery in Ors, France
CWGC attending to the headstones
However, Gary managed to take a quick photo before it was given a further clean.

I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books.  I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.

Wilfred Owen’s last letter

A note to his mum
Wilfred Owen spent his last nights in the cellars of the bleak Foresters House at Pommereuil, and it was from here that he wrote his last letter to his mother.
The words to Wilfred Owen's last letter etched onto a curved wall leading to the Forester's House in Pommereuil, France
The last letter
The Forester’s House is now a museum to Wilfred Owen, and his moving poetry is projected on the walls inside.
The Forester's House, painted in a drab grey, in Pommereuil, France
Foresters House at Pommereuil

Wilfred’s mother was informed by telegram of her son’s death on Armistice Day, as the church bells were ringing in her hometown of Shrewsbury, as a celebration of the end of the war.

The inscription on Wilfred Owen’s gravestone was chosen by his mother from one of Wilfred’s poems and read “SHALL LIFE RENEW THESE BODIES? OF A TRUTH ALL DEATH WILL HE ANNUL".

Discovering the Great War sites yourself

Discover more of northern France and create your own tour around the poignant battlefields of the Somme. It’s so easy to do this on a road trip, base yourself in the lovely city of Amiens.

Rental Cars searches multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

Have a peek at the latest offers for Amiens with Booking.com, our preferred hotel booking website.
Booking.com

Visiting Thiepval Memorial

Memorial to the Missing of the Somme
We left the small village of Ors with heavy hearts; however, nothing quite prepared us for the sight we were about to see and experience at the Thiepval Memorial in northern France.
The 43-metre high Thiepval Memorial, built of red brick and cream-coloured stone, with both the French & British flags fluttering in the breeze.
The Thiepval Memorial
When we arrived at Thiepval Memorial there was an incredible feel of silence and reticence. We turned the corner and the staggering vast memorial that faces you is astonishing. Sitting high above the River Somme, Thiepval Memorial looks down to where some of the bloodiest battles of the First World War took place.
The 43-metre high Thiepval Memorial, built of red brick and cream-coloured stone, with both the French & British flags fluttering in the breeze.
Towering Thiepval Memorial

The Thiepval Memorial commemorates over 72,000 men of British and South African forces, who lost their lives during the Somme battles prior to 20th March 1918 and have no known grave.

Shockingly over 90% of those young lives which are remembered on this monument died between July and November 1916, just five short months.

A stone wreath, commemorating the Battle of the Some in 1916, built into one of the sides of the Thiepval Memorial, Thiepval, France
Wreath of the Somme 1916
The Stone of Remembrance underneath the central arch of the Thiepval Memorial, Thiepval, France
So many names

Did you know?

That the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), maintains cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations, in more than 150 countries and territories.

World War I, the Somme

So many lives lost in such a short time

Visiting the Thiepval Memorial is so moving and hard to believe that the majority of the almost never-ending list of names died during the Somme offensive of 1916.

It’s so difficult at times to comprehend the extent of the number of men who fell during this horrific time. Then when you see them listed one after another, it’s so heart wrenching.

The Stone of Remembrance, engraved with the words 'There Name Liveth Forever More', at the centre of the Thiepval Memorial, Thiepval, France
Their Name Liveth for Evermore, Thiepval Memorial 
The towering Thiepval Memorial can be seen for miles around and the monument stands over 45 metres in height. It is the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world.
The Cross of Sacrifice in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in front of the Thiepval Memorial
The Cross of Sacrifice in front of the Thiepval Memorial
The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and construction of Thiepval monument began in 1928 and was unveiled by Prince Edward, Prince of Wales on 1st August 1932.

Visiting the Anglo-French Battle Memorial

At the feet of Thiepval monument
Just beyond the Thiepval Memorial is the Anglo-French Battle Memorial. This beautifully kept cemetery contains the graves of 300 Commonwealth servicemen and 300 French servicemen.
The joint Anglo-French cemetery, with the Cross of Sacrifice in the centre, at the Thiepval Memorial, Thiepval, France
Anglo-French Cemetery
All laid out in military precision, most of the headstones were honouring the grave of an unknown soldier.

Have you?

Visited any touching sites that left a lasting impression, why not share your memories?

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