Today the general layout of the Somme battlefields remains remarkably unchanged. There are now many memorials and some 250 cemeteries. In some places sections of trenches have been preserved, and some sites have visitors’ centres to help interpret the battlefield.
Whilst nearly 90 years have passed since the battle of the Somme, the region is relatively unchanged. Obviously, modern roads and housing developments have taken place, but if you are prepared to get away from the roads and walk around the lanes and tracks, then in many cases you can get a real feel for what the battlefields must have looked like then.
Many of the villages were destroyed by the massive artillery bombardments. Several, such as Serre, were made into fortress-villages as part of the German lines and so suffered greatly from artillery fire. After the war ended, there was a proposal to make the Somme battlefields a Zone Rouge – an area where the land was considered so devastated that rebuilding and resettlement of villages was deemed impossible (as was the case at Verdun). However, this was not implemented, and the villages were rebuilt in most cases. There were some exceptions, such as Thiepval (the site of the imposing Memorial to the Missing).
The region is very pleasant to visit and to walk, and combining a walking holiday with visiting the battlefields in this beautiful region of France is a great way to spend a few days remembering the great human toll that the Battle of the Somme entailed. IWM