Visiting where the World War took place: the battle that was the inspiration for Mordor
The 20th century didn’t truly begin until the First World War. It was the first total war in history and destroyed the innocence and romanticism of European societies.
The participating countries used their economies and their entire societies in the conflict, in which aviation, tanks, mines and machine guns were used for the first time against millions of people.
And the Battle of the Somme was one of the worst massacres suffered by the British, Australian and Canadian forces.
The trenches where soldiers used to wait for days or months for the order to attack have been recreated.
TOLKIEN’S HAUNTING MEMORIES
The author of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, J.R.R. Tolkien, was one of the young British recruits who fought in the battle. For the young Oxford graduate there was no greater horror than what he saw there, and this inspired him to write about Mordor, the stronghold of evil.
In the third year of the war, the Allies launched an offensive against the Germans in the north of France with the objective of achieving a decisive victory that would determine the outcome of the war in their favour.
Convinced that the aerial bombardments that had been pounding German trenches for three days had destroyed their artillery, thousands of soldiers approached enemy lines on foot. 20,000 died from German machine-gun fire in just six minutes.
One million lost their lives in the 141 days of the battle. A character in ‘Tender is the Night’, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the writers who best portrayed the disenchantment of the ‘Lost Generation’ described the moment as: “All my beautiful, lovely, safe world blew itself up here”.
The sites where this battle took place in the Picardy region in the north of France are not as well known as the beaches in the Normandy landing or as Verdun, another bloody battle with a million French and German casualties.
The centenary of the Battle of the Somme could be a good opportunity to discover this area, where even today, weapons continue to be discovered and bodies unearthed.
The bodies of the soldiers were never moved, and almost 500 military cemeteries can be found in the area.
The craters from the shells launched by the Allies during the first days of the Battle of the Somme are still visible.
The memory of the battle is commemorated and embodied in stone in the Franco-British memorial in Thiepval, in the South African and New Zealand memorial in Longueval, in the Ulster Memorial Tower, in the Thiepval Memorial and in the Rancourt Memorial Chapel.
Even the earth itself has not forgotten the battle and in the forests of the area, the scars caused by shells are still visible, although now covered by grass.
The most impressive crater is 80 metres deep, known as the Lochnagar Crater, close to the town of La Boisselle, caused by the detonation of a mine containing 25 tons of ammonal.
The city of Thiepval, where one of the most well-known cemeteries is located, was completely destroyed by Allied bombings.
There are two museums dedicated to this battle in the area; the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert and the Museum of the Great War, in Péronne. At both museums you can find the image of a poppy, the symbol of all the victims of war since 1914.
They are also present at the other memorials and cemeteries that make up what is called the Circuit of Remembrance, which includes the towns of Albert, Péronne, Thiepval, Maricourt, Longueval and La Boisselle.
Source: "Passenger 6A".