<% Response.expires = 0.01 %> Thiepval Charity Site




How to get there





from March 2005


The Thiepval
Visitor Centre

8 rue de l'Ancre
80300 Thiepval

Tel: 00333 2274 6047
Fax: 00333 2247 6544


site managed by
1 Can Help, Web
 Design Services


Thiepval Patrons
His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent
Sir Michael Jay KCMG Permanent Secretary Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Sir John Holmes KBE CMG CVO HM Ambassador to France
visitor centre d'accueil
      Somme               Fundraising now complete

Last changed October 2004

The following are the texts from the Official Programme prepared for the Opening Ceremony
27th September 2004

A copy of  HRH's speech at the Opening Ceremony is at the bottom of this page.

A message from
HRH The Duke of Kent KG
Patron of The Thiepval Project

I strongly support the creation of an educational centre at Thiepval.

During the course of my many visits to Thiepval, the scale of the sacrifice made by so many of our countrymen has been doubly impressed upon me by the grandeur of Lutyens's architecture. The task of designing a monument to contain the names of over 73,000 men would have daunted most architects, but Lutyens rose to the challenge magnificently and it is not surprising that the Imperial War Graves Commission chose his design to crown the great hill of Thiepval.

This centre will help to ensure that the many thousands of visitors to Thiepval will have a clearer understanding of the Somme battles and of the background to them.  I most heartily congratulate all those responsible, from the Conseil Géral of the Somme in France and from the Thiepval Project Charitable Fund in the United Kingdom. Above all our thanks have to go to all the generous Donors, without whom none of this would have been possible.

The Missing of Thiepval and the casualties of the Great War will not be forgotten.

HRH The Duke of Kent                                Patron                                                                                           The Thiepval Project 

A draft of the speech made by HRH at the opening ceremony is attached to the bottom of this page.

A message from Daniel Dubois
President of the Conseil Général
de la Somme

The Conseil Général de la Somme is proud to have contributed to the building of the Thiepval Educational Visitor Centre which we inaugurate this year, a highly symbolic year for Franco-British Friendship. Having attended the 1st of July celebrations, I know for a fact that, for all our British friends, the Memorial to the Missing is a special place for recollection. Many who visit have lost one of their forefathers who had come to defend the values of freedom.

From the onset, the promoters of this project were well received by both our community and the State. The objective was to erect a building which would blend harmoniously into the landscape and would answer a two-fold purpose: first to offer better facilities to the 180,000 visitors each year who come to reflect and meditate at the Memorial, and second to highlight in an educational way, the fierce fighting at Thiepval and the Battle of the Somme so that remembrance will never wane.

This is the year we celebrate the Centenary of the Entente Cordiale and the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. This is the year when the Household Division paraded on the Champs Elysées on Bastille Day. It is hence most fitting for the Conseil Général de la Somme to make available this Visitor Centre, to be worthy of the Memorial to the Missing and of all that it symbolizes for the British.

Président of the Conseil Général de la Somme

The Somme

The territory of the Somme, the great river flowing through the vast, open spaces of Picardy has a particular resonance in British and French history.

William the Conqueror embarked on 27 September 1066 from St. Valéry-sur-Somme at its mouth. During the Hundred Years War, it was the scene of momentous battles between France and England, whose Henry V camped at Thiepval in 1415.

At Thiepval in the Great War, the French halted the Germans in 1914 but apart from a sharp diversionary attack in June 1915 near Serre, it was a backwater of the Western Front until 1916, in the meantime being turned into a fortress by the Germans. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, over 19,000 officers and men were killed, 38,000 were wounded, the biggest loss in one day in the history of the British Army. Lutyens’s Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval is a powerful reminder of this tragic combat and a moving homage to the 73,757 Fallen who have no known grave.

The massive German onslaught on the Somme in Spring 1918, intended to win the war, was shattered by British, Dominion and French forces. The tide turned with the French victory on the Marne (18 July). The British offensive on 8 August was the ‘black day for the German Army’. The German High Command concluded that the war must end.

Sir Edwin Lutyens OM KCIE (1869-1944)

England’s greatest and most prolific architect since Sir Christopher Wren, his career lasted over 50 years from the reign of Queen Victoria until the Second World War when, before his death on New Year’s Day 1944, he drew up plans for a National Theatre and the post-war reconstruction of London.

Born in London, the son of a retired soldier and animal artist, with little formal education or architectural training he precociously established his own practice at the age of nineteen. In the same year he met Gertrude Jekyll, artist and celebrated garden designer, who became his mentor and with whom he had a fertile collaboration. This lasted several decades, creating sophisticated vernacular country houses and beautifully planned, imaginatively landscaped gardens, mainly in Surrey, including Munstead Wood in 1893.

His work, while romantic in inspiration, became classical in discipline yet complex and often abstract in design, always executed with excellent craftsmanship using fine materials. From his British pavilion for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, Lutyens went on to dominate the Edwardian era as the builder of new country houses often for new fortunes and developed a personal ‘Georgian’ and ‘Queen Anne’ vernacular. With Heathcote in Yorkshire built in 1906, he revealed himself as a great Mannerist architect.

With the decision in 1911 of the new King Emperor, George V, to transfer the capital of the British Empire in India from Calcutta to Delhi, Lutyens became an Imperial architect. With his Viceroy’s House at New Delhi, he created the greatest palace of modern times. Larger than Versailles, it preoccupied him until its inauguration in 1931.

After the Great War, the genius of Lutyens to express mourning on behalf of the nation became apparent to the general public with the Cenotaph in Whitehall whose abstract symbolism captured their imagination and made him more widely known. It was the first of his many war memorials, monuments and military cemeteries in Britain, France and further tributes to the Fallen. In 1918, the Imperial War Graves Commission, which came into being largely through the energies of Fabian Ware, appointed the leading architects of the day, Lutyens, Herbert Baker, Reginald Blomfield and later Charles Holden, with their team of assistant architects, for the vast undertaking of creating permanent memorials and burial grounds of the Great War - the ‘Silent Cities’ as Kipling called them. With its tremendous presence, the towering Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, brooding over the killing fields of some of the bloodiest conflicts in British military history - the Battles of the Somme - is his greatest achievement in this domain, which, with his others in France - Arras, Etaples and Villers-Bretonneux for the Australians, came at the height of his powers of imagination. The Stone of Remembrance, a monolith by Lutyens, and Blomfield’s Cross of Sacrifice were placed in almost all the cemeteries. One important feature was that no distinction was made between officers and men; all headstones were of the same form.

After 1914-18, orders for country houses were replaced by commissions in the City of London (eg Barclays Bank) and the West End (eg Grosvenor House). His greatest project, the Roman Catholic Liverpool Cathedral, was curtailed by the Second War. Even so, his output of some 600 commissions throughout the world is astonishing. Knighted in 1918, President of the Royal Academy from 1938-44, Lutyens was the first architect to be awarded the Order of Merit.

The Thiepval Project

In 1998, Sir Frank Sanderson and Colonel Piers Storie-Pugh concluded that a centre was needed to explain the history of the Battles of the Somme and the Great War to the increasing number of visitors to the battlefields in Picardy. This culminated in the creation of a Franco-British project, jointly administered by the Department of the Somme and a team of British volunteers.

Monsieur Alain Petitjean, Deputy Chief Executive of the Conseil-Général of the Somme, sought public funding while Frank Sanderson, leading the British side, launched an appeal for donations, a great deal of which came from the magnificent support of Charitable Trusts, Regiments, Corps and Local Authorities. Important initial grants from BP Amoco and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office led to generous support from many other sources including, among 1500 individual donations, a gift of £72,000. This matched the number of soldiers whose names are inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial. The EU Interreg III Fund also contributed generously.
Madame Potié, Mayor of Thiepval, and her husband made possible the acquisition of the land upon which the new centre has been built, in the very shadow of Lutyens’s Thiepval Memorial, and have both been constant and enthusiastic supporters of the project.

The Visitor Centre

The French volunteered to match the British contribution, with a target of £1.85 million to build the Centre, jointly achieved with substantial EU funding.

A competition was launched amongst French and British architects. At Amiens, in 2002, a Franco-British jury awarded the commission to a young French architect Nicolas Ziesel, leading a team of specialist associates. His design is a modernist glass pavilion with exhibition space, a lecture room, public areas for reception and shop, offices and services.

Ideas flowed from both sides of the Channel. The evolving design has produced a building which has become a long, low construction, sunk into the landscape, with enclosing earthworks, reminiscent of the trenches of the Great War.

A major feature of the Centre is the educational display, the province of the British side in consultation with the French, represented by the Historial de la Grande Guerre. Graham Simpson of Cube3 and his associates M2 were commissioned to design this display, consisting of several sections: The Great War tells the story of the Battles of the Somme and their context within
the Great War. Other sections are devoted to its aftermath:

Military Remembrance shows how the Fallen were honoured.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission describes the role of this authority (and its French and German equivalents); Reconstruction shows how the huge task of rebuilding devastated areas was achieved.

Edwin Lutyens reveals the life and works of the creator of the Thiepval Memorial.

A notable feature of the display, is an imposing model by Andrew Ingham Associates which shows the complexity and subtlety of his masterpiece.


The Donors to the Thiepval Project Charitable Fund:
Le Conseil Général de la Somme
FEDER / ERDF European funds                                        Interreg IIIA European funds
Réseau de transport d’électricité (RTE)

Charities Aid Foundation
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Imperial War Museum
The Lutyens Trust
Members of the Fundraising Committee
Royal British Legion
Préfecture de la région Picardie
Préfecture de la Somme
CAUE de la Somme
CDT de la Somme
Historial de la Grande Guerre
Centre de recherches de l’Historial
Mairie de Thiepval


Developers:                                                                           Conseil Général de la Somme                                                  The CAF Thiepval Project

Architects:                                                              Plan01architectes 

Mâitrise d'oeuvres bâtiment et VRD:                                    RFR ingénieurs structure,  Delta Fluides ingénieurs fluides, P&L paysagiste, Bureaux de contrôle Veritas et Socotec
.tec                                                                                                 Entreprises bâtiment et VRD:                                                 Léon Grosse, Appia Somme, Picardie Soudure, CDP, Christian Sagez, EGBM, Fourny, Les Plaquistes Picard, SCMS, Jacques Cocqueman, Caty Peinture, Christian Yvon, Accart, Hublart


Exhibition designers:                                                           Graham Simpson Design Consultants, Cube3, London
Graphics audio visual:                                                                 M2 Graphic Design and Communications, Cube3, London

Model maker Andrew Ingham & Associates Ltd., London

Honorary project advisors Architecture:                            Michael Barker (The Lutyens Trust).
Landscaping:                                                                              Philip Russell Vick (Enplan)
Military archaeology:                                                                   Phillip Robinson, Mike Hibberd and the Durand Group

Honorary historians:                                                                   Nigel Cave IC                                                                    Professor Peter Simkins MBE FRHistS                           Michael Stedman
Honorary researchers:                                                              Jack Sheldon                                                                        Norbert Krüger                                                                            Ken and Pam Linge                                                            Caroline Fontaine                                                                    Jean-Pierre Thierry

Great Northern Publishing                          Eurostar                                                       Eurotunnel                                                                    Remembrance Travel                                                                     Ideal Standard
RIBA Drawings Collection

Draft of the speech made by HRH The Duke of Kent at the opening of the Thiepval visitor centre on 27th September 2004.

It is now three years since I came here on a very wet afternoon and met you M. le Sénateur, Madame le maire and Sir Frank Sanderson at the birth of a plan to create this Franco-British educational visitor centre.  Since that time an enormous amount of work has gone into the funding and construction of this most impressive building. The French architects and British designers and the historians are to be congratulated, but it is the people of the Somme and the Donors of the Thiepval Project who have made it possible. The number of Donors here today shows the depth of feeling that the events of eighty years ago still stir in the hearts of the British nation.

This centenary year of the Entente Cordiale is being celebrated in grand style in our capital cities, but perhaps the true and natural testing of the entente is best seen at local level.  Here we have a project where the Conseil général has not only found half of the funding for the building, but has also managed all the construction.  On the British side even more money has been raised and an educational exhibition has been designed, constructed and installed.  There has been a complete and natural blending of talents and complete co-operation.  It is the natural and seemingly automatic way in which this co-operation has flowered in this locality that our nations should now celebrate. 

The exhibition explains the events of that terrible war and of the battle of the Somme, it does not try to draw conclusions – that task is left to the visitor.  However the substantial EU funding for this Project and the presence here today of HRH the Herzog of Württemberg gives us proof that the peaceful Europe which was so hoped for by all who fought here, is now a reality.  However the events of the past are an essential guide to the future and if we ever forget them we will be doing so at our own peril. 

Today we remember all those who fell in this battle; and at the cutting of the ribbon in a few minutes time we will be symbolically assisted by the direct descendants of just two of those who fell.  Emelie’s great uncle was Jean-Baptiste Pasquier a 35 year old reservist in the 137° Regiment d’Infantrie, who was Killed in Action on the slopes below this village in 1914 and is buried in the large French national cemetery in Albert.  Jonty’s great uncle was Charles Skey, a volunteer Royal Fusilier who rose through the ranks and was a Captain in the Black Watch when he was Killed in Action near High Wood in August 1916. He was 24 years old and his name is on the memorial to the Missing.

These young children represent the future of our nations and of Europe and we have a duty to help them create that new peaceful and free world that all these soldiers fought and died for.

Let us hope that the education available in this centre helps to make it certain that no such a war ever happens again in these lands of ours.

Return to Home Page