France // The north //

The Circuit du Souvenir

The Circuit du Souvenir takes you from graveyard to mine crater, trench to memorial. There’s little to show the scale of the destruction nor do you get much sense of battle tactics. But you will find that, no matter what the level of your interest in the Great War, you have embarked on a sort of pilgrimage, as each successive step uncovers a more harrowing slice of history.

The cemeteries are deeply moving, with the grass perfectly mown and flowers by every gravestone. Tens of thousands of them stand in precise rows, all identical, with a man’s name if it’s known (nearly half the British dead have never been found), his rank and regiment and, often, a personal message chosen by the bereaved family. In the lanes between Albert and Bapaume you’ll see cemeteries everywhere: at the angle of copses, halfway across a field, in the middle of a wood.