Practice English Speaking&Listening with: First World War: Thiepval Memorial to the 72.000 Missing of the Somme

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Hello internet Today we are in France at the breathtaking

Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the first world war battle of Somme. It is the largest

British war memorial in the world.

On July 1st 1916 after the German trenches were shelled with over 1.5 million rounds

the battle of the Somme began. British and French soldiers left their trenches and attacked

towards the German lines, hoping to break through them. Hoping to end the stalemate

of trench warfare that had already lasted for nearly 2 years.

Unfortunately the day ended in disaster and the British army suffered almost 58,000 casualties.

Over 19,000 British and commonwealth soldiers were killed.

Thiepval Ridge on which the monument now stands was an objective for that first day of the

operation. However it was not captured in July or not even in August, it took until

the end of September before it was finally taken.

The dead were buried in one of the many cemeteries in the area but what to do with those men

that were missing? Of the 150.000 soldiers who died at the Somme, over half of them had

no known grave. They had to be commemorated. To do that the Imperial War Graves Commission

called in the help of Sir Edwin Lutyens. He already worked for the commission as he was

involved in the standardized design of the war cemeteries. And amongst other things,

designed the Cenotaph in London.

The memorial on the Somme, honoring so many missing men required a something even bigger

than the Menin Gate in Ieper. And Lutyens set to work on designing his masterpiece.

After the unexploded ordnance, trench lines and even tunnels were removed, construction

could finally began in 1928, it took four years to build and it was unveiled on August

1st 1932 by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France.

The monument was originally scheduled to be unveiled in May but it had to be postponed

because President Paul Doumer was assassinated in Paris. After his successor President Lebrun

had taken office the ceremony could finally take place.

Present were many veterans of the Somme, but not all of those were in uniform as some were

now working for the Imperial War Graves Commission, looking after the graves of their fallen comrades.

The memorial is 140 feet high and consists of four interlocking arches of different sizes.

These arches rest on 16 brick piers where there is space for 64 stone panels. On 56

panels the names of 72,316 British and South African men are listed who died in the Somme

sector and who have no known grave. The London Regiment has the sad honor of having the most

soldiers listed on the monument; 4348.

On the panels, under their respective regiments there are seven Victoria Cross recipients

listed 6 of them British and one South African. The British custom is to remove the names

from the tablets of those who have been identified so seeing a place where a name has been removed

is actually a good thing. One more soldier now has a grave with his name on it.

Above the panels there are 16 stone laurel wreaths, which are inscribed with the names

of the sub battles that made up the Battle of the Somme.

A large inscription on the memorial reads: Here are recorded names of officers and men

of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields July 1915 February 1918 but to

whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in


In the winter of 1932-1933 it was decided to build a small cemetery behind the memorial

to represent the losses of both the British and French during the battles of the Somme.

300 French and 300 British soldiers were buried at the foot of the memorial. Of those, 239

British and 253 French soldiers are unknown. The men were all found between December 1931

and March 1932, most died in the on the Somme but a number of the soldiers were brought

in from areas further away too.

On the cross of sacrifice the following inscription has been added:

That the world may remember the common sacrifice of two and a half million dead, here have

been laid side by side Soldiers of France and of the British Empire in eternal comradeship.

The Description of First World War: Thiepval Memorial to the 72.000 Missing of the Somme