Key World War One Sites and Battlefields | Travel Guides | History Hit

Key World War One Sites and Battlefields

History Hit

24 Nov 2020

For many people, visiting World War One sites can be one of the most immersive ways to learn about the conflict known as the “Great War”. There’s are many fascinating World War One sites and battlefields to visit and among the most prominent are the Somme battlefields, Fort Douaumont and Lochnagar Crater. Other important sites tend to include Anzac Cove, Menin Gate and Douaumont Ossuary.

For those seeking to discover these poignant places there are World War One sites ranging from museums and memorials to battle sites and airfields which all stand in testimony to this terrible conflict. You can explore our selection of these WWI sites below and also view our WWI sites map above.

Whether you’re interested in the Western Front or the Gallipoli Campaign, we’ve set out an experts guide to the World War 1 sites, museums monuments and landmarks around the globe with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of WW1 sites which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

What are the most important World War One sites and battlefields?

1. Somme battlefields

Incorporating several World War One sites, these battlefields are the locations at which the infamous Battle of the Somme was fought from July to November 1916. The Battle of the Somme was renowned for the exceptionally high number of casualties borne by the Allied forces.

Most visitors follow the Circuit of Remembrance, a forty mile route winding through numerous battle sites, memorials and museums. This Somme battlefields tour explores the individual battles as well as going through individual towns occupied by different forces with signs along the way. Those who wish to embark on this route can download audio guides to the route for free from various sources, including from the website of the Historial de la Grande Guerre museum.

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2. Fort Douaumont

Built following the Franco-Prussian wars, this fort acted as a shelter for locals during the Battle of Verdun. However, in the confusion, it was soon captured and destroyed by the Germans. Today, it remains one of the least changed of the World War 1 sites, with visitors able to see it as it was at the end of the war. You can take a tour through its three levels and see the guns, turrets and weaponry which remain. Despite the destruction, much of Fort Douaumont is well preserved including the barrack rooms and command posts. There is also a graveyard.

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3. Lochnagar Crater

This is one of the more vivid of World War I sites, it being the vast crater left behind by one of the first mine explosions of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. Set off by British forces the mine which created the Lochnagar Crater was one of the biggest ever detonated at that time and Lochnagar itself is an astounding 100 metres in diameter and 30 metres deep.

Today, visitors can see Lochnagar Crater, either as a one off site or as part of the Circuit of Remembrance, a route which explores the Battle of the Somme, one of the biggest battles in World War One.

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4. Anzac Cove

One of the most important World War 1 sites of the Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey, Anzac Cove was where Australian and New Zealander troops landed on 25 April 1915. The Anzac Cove landings were part of the Gallipoli Campaign, an effort by the Commonwealth and by the French to remove Turkey from World War I. Today, there are several memorials at Anzac Cove and it is the site where Anzac Day ceremonies are held.

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5. Menin Gate

This is a famous monument is one of the most significant World War 1 sites in Ypres and is a memorial to the British and Commonwealth troops who went missing in action in Belgium during this conflict. Ypres was a vital strategic point during the war and the site of fierce fighting, including three main battles together known as the Battle of Ypres. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers perished or went missing during this period and Menin Gate bears the names of 54,896 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers who died without graves. Menin Gate is one of the most important First World War sites and has a daily memorial ceremony at 8pm known as the Last Post Ceremony.

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6. Douaumont Ossuary

This vast memorial, museum and cemetery commemorates those soldiers who lost their lives in the fierce Battle of Verdun. The Battle of Verdun was one of the fiercest during World War One, lasting from 21 February 1916 to December 1916 and resulting in estimated casualties of 400,000 soldiers for each of the French and German armies who fought in it. This site is home to the bones of 130,000 unknown soldiers, marking a fitting reminder to the savage consequences of this battle and the war as a whole.

Made up of an imposing stone structure with a 46 metre tower and beautifully maintained fields which house a cemetery with the graves of a further 15,000 French soldiers, Douaumont overlooks the battlefield of the Battle of Verdun. Visitors can climb to the top of its tower for panoramic views of these fields.

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7. Ulster Memorial Tower

The Ulster Memorial Tower in Thiepval in France is a 70-foot high stone structure built as a memorial to the men of Ulster who fought and gave their lives during World War I. The first memorial to be built on the Western Front, the Ulster Memorial Tower is a replica of Helen’s Tower, an important monument which is located in County Down in Northern Ireland.

Located on what was the German front line during the Battle of the Somme, the Ulster Memorial Tower faces Thiepval Wood, the site from which the 36th (Ulster) Division made its charge on the first day of the famous offensive, 1 July 1916. Today, the site offers guided tours of these woods from its visitor centre.

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8. Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood Museum

The Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood Museum contains an impressive partially-restored WWI trench system as well as artefacts and images from the site. Located near to the original front lines, the Sanctuary Wood Trenches were left in place by the owner of the land after the war and were preserved in-situ from that time. A museum was later opened at the site and the trenches were partially-restored to ensure they survived the increasing number of visitors. Today visitors can explore these trenches and covered passageways as well as a section of the underground tunnel system.

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9. Verdun Memorial

The Verdun Memorial is both a memorial site and a museum located in the Verdun Battlefield in France. The Battle of Verdun was a fierce clash between French and German forces in 1916 during the First World War which resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties. Laid out over two floors, the Verdun Memorial Museum immerses the visitor in the realities of the battle by recreating the trench system and using multimedia presentations to guide visitors through the events of the war.

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10. Newfoundland Memorial

The Newfoundland Memorial represents the best surviving trench system from World War One and commemorates the efforts of the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Newfoundland Regiment.

Once the site of fierce fighting and destruction, the location of the Newfoundland Memorial is now peaceful parkland, indented with the remains of wartime trenches. In fact, the trenches at the site of the Newfoundland Memorial are some of the best preserved of their kind and offer visitors an invaluable insight into the conditions of the Great War.

The memorial consists of a number of battle sites, each of which are signposted, several cemeteries, memorials to the Newfoundland Division and to the Highland Division. Information panels guide the way through each of the battle sites and remains.

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