The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme

Photo2203On Tuesday, May 28th,  the Missouri S&T students and faculty visited various places that went over the entire Battle of the Somme, many of which included graveyards and memorials. One such memorial that was visited mid-morning was Thiepval, precisely, The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. Though we were only given a half-hour at the memorial, the impact of the site was still very heavy on us, as standing under the arches of the brick memorial and seeing every name of the nearly 72,000 missing men brought about feelings of intense loss. At the memorial, we visited the visitors’ center first and had an introduction to the Somme battles by our tour guide. We saw pictures of the men and  in the eyes of the soldiers one could see the horrors they experienced in war. Looking around the small visitors’ center could never prepare a person for the monument itself, even with the small model on display in the lobby.

Photo2206After a few minutes, everyone took the small hike up hill to the monument, which took a trail from behind the visitors’ center, past a couple of cottages, and through waist-high stone walls giving a small inscription of what is present on site. The huge gravel circle in front of the monument led up to a wide grass field one had to walk across to reach the structure, as no paths were built. The Thiepval Memorial itself was imposing on the scenery and can be seen from far-off distances in the countryside, but standing before the structure’s steps themselves brings the gravity of the situation down on a visitor, especially once one comes close enough to read the names scrawled across every part of the one-hundred-and-fifty-foot-tall monument. The laurel wreaths on the building also add to the monument by giving the names of the battles occurring in the Somme, as well as the many dedications to the soldiers on the upper walls of the structure.

Photo2207As a representation of The Battles of the Somme, the Thiepval Memorial truly does give an accurate impression, as by representing every man that went missing in the battles it gives some people the sense of the war not being over yet. It does honor the memory of the missing, but the war can never really be over and give everyone closure until all of the names on the walls of Thiepval are accounted for – even in modern times, the war is still ongoing in the hearts and minds of the people who knew the deceased. To have such an overwhelming structure that stands over the rest of the land, the Thiepval Memorial could also act as a representation of the men who stood to protect the country and still remain on this land as guardians, with their duty ending once the body is found and given a proper burial. As the stone in the middle of the memorial says, “Their name liveth for evermore.” These soldiers will continue to exist in memory until the day when they are found and put to rest, and their battles, finally, put to an end.