Ulster Memorial Tower | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Ulster Memorial Tower

Thiepval, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About 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 One.

Ulster Memorial Tower history

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.

The 36th (Ulster) Division attacked the Schwaben Redoubt, which is near the Ulster Tower, on 1 July 1916. The Schwaben Redoubt was a little to the north-east of where the tower stands, and was a triangle of trenches with a frontage of 300 yards, a fearsome strongpoint with commanding views. It is also located close to the Thiepval Memorial.

The front lines were at the edge of Thiepval Wood which lies to the south-west of the road between the Thiepval Memorial and the Ulster Tower. Troops of the 109th Brigade crossed about 400 yards of no man’s land, and kept on going. They entered the Schwaben Redoubt, and advanced on towards Stuff Redoubt, gaining in all around a mile, though not without losses. To their left, the 108th Brigade were successful in advancing near Thiepval, but less so nearer the River Ancre.

The 107th Brigade supported them, but although men of the 36th Division held out for the day the Germans mounted counterattacks, and as their stocks of bombs and ammunition dwindled, many fell back with small parties remaining in the German front lines. The casualties suffered by the 36th Division on 1 July totalled over 5,000.

The tower, which is 70 feet high, was unveiled by Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson on the 19 November 1921, at a ceremony also attended by French dignitaries. The tower was dedicated by the Primate of All Ireland, the Moderator of the Irish Presbyterian church and the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland. At the time it was described as the most imposing monument on the Western Front. Trees from Ulster were planted here by survivors from the 36th Division.

Ulster Memorial Tower today

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.

There are various war-related items to be seen around the grounds, including shells and a section of light railway as shown below. Inside the Ulster Memorial Tower, visitors can view the plaques dedicated to the Irish soldiers, several paintings and visit its memorial chapel.

Getting to Ulster Memorial Tower

Located just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Thiepval Memorial, the Ulster Memorial Tower stands proudly by the side of the road, visible from a distance.

From Albert take the D50 North, at Aveluy first crossroads take D20 East, continue until the D20 meets the D151, turn left North onto the D151 direction of Thiepval, continue through Authuille, at Thiepval crossroads take a left onto the D73 North and the Ulster Tower is about 1km on your right. There is parking near the gate of the Ulster Tower.

From Arras, take the D917 south to the outskirts of Bapaume, then a right turn onto the D929, at Pozieres take a right onto the D73 to Thiepval, drive through the village, the Ulster Tower is on your right.

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