The 10 Largest Memorials to Soldiers on the Western Front of World War One

Alex Browne

4 mins

09 Feb 2015

Memorials to the First World War are ubiquitous and even small towns and villages in France and the UK have monuments commemorating those fallen. This list collects ten of the largest memorials in Western Europe. They are mainly situated in France and Belgium, on or near the sites of the events they commemorate.

1. Thiepval Memorial

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The Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme commemorates 72,195 British and South African soldiers whose remains were never found after the battles around the Somme from 1915 and 1918. It was designed by Edwin Lutyens and unveiled on 1 August 1932 in the village of Thiepval, Picardy, France.

2. Menin Gate Memorial

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The Menin Gate Memorial to the missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, dedicated to 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient who do not have known graves. It was designed by Reginald Blomfield and unveiled on 24 July 1927.

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3. Tyne Cot Cemetary

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Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery for those killed at the Ypres Salient between 1914 and 18. The land for the cemetery was granted to the United Kingdom by King Albert I of Belgium in October 1917 in recognition of the British contribution to defending Belgium in the war. The graves of 11,954 men are situated here, the identity of most is unknown.

4. The Arras Memorial

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The Arras Memorial commemorates 34,785 New Zealand, South African and British soldiers killed near the town of Arras from 1916 onwards who have no known graves. It was unveiled on 31 July 1932 and was designed by architect Edwin Lutyens and sculptor William Reid Dick.

5. Irish National War Memorial Gardens

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The Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin are dedicated to the memory of 49,400 Irish soldiers who died on the Western Front of World War One out of a total 300,000 Irish servicemen who participated. The Gardens were designed by Edwin Lutyens in the 1930s, but were not officially opened until 10 September 1988 after extensive restoration work on the dilapidated original structure.

6. Canadian National Vimy Memorial

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Located in Vimy in France, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial bears the names of 11,169 missing Canadian soldiers and is dedicated to the country’s 60,000 First World War dead. It was designed by William Seymour Allward and unveiled by Edward VIII on 26 July 1936.

7. Ijzertoren

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The Ijzertoren is a memorial near the Yser River in Belgium which commemorates the predominantly Flemish Belgian soldiers killed in the area. The original was built by Flemish soldiers after the war, but was destroyed on 16 March 1946 and subsequently replaced by the present, larger monument.

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8. Douaumont Ossuary

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Built on the site of the Battle of Verdun, the Douaumont Ossuary commemorates the 230,000 dead of that battle. It was built with the encouragement of the Bishop of Verdun and opened on 7 August 1932. It contains the remains of French and German soldiers. The cemetery beside it is the largest French cemetery of the First World War and contains 16,142 graves.

9. Ablain St-Nazaire French Military Cemetery, ‘Notre Dame de Lorette’

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The graveyard and ossuary of the church of Notre Dame de Lorette contain the remains of around 40,000 men from France and its colonies, the most in any French memorial. It chiefly remembers the dead of the battles fought at the nearby town of  Artois. The basilica was designed by Louis-Marie Cordonnier and his son and erected between 1921-7.

10. Lochnagar Mine Crater Memorial, La Boisselle, Somme Battlefields

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Situated near the Somme, the Lochnagar mine was dug under a German fortification south of the village of La Boisselle in 1916. Attempts to remove the crater after the war were not successful and in the 1970s Richard Dunning bought the land containing the crater with the goal of preserving it. In 1986 he erected a memorial there which is visited by 200,000 people annually.