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From the remains of the Somme battlefields to those of Verdun and beyond, the World War One Battlefields in France tell of the terrible cost of the First World War. Today, the WW1 battlefields in France can be explored independently or with organised tours of these WWI battlefields, and there are a number of interesting and moving places to visit.
The devastating nature of this terrible conflict was witnessed throughout the war along the Western Front, with huge armies dug into the muddy fields of France and set-piece advances involving hundreds of thousands of men bringing huge loss of life, often for little gain. Today, visitors to the WW1 Battlefields in France can experience recreations in museums, explore the surviving trench works and visit memorials and cemeteries to those who died.
There’s a diverse selection of WW1 Battlefields in France and you can plan some interesting places to see on your travels in France by browsing our selection. Some of the best known World War One battlefields in France include the Lochnagar Crater, Louvemont, the Newfoundland Memorial and of course the battlefields of the Somme. Beyond these sites, and beyond the WW1 Battlefields in France themselves, a number of other interesting places can be explored to find out more about this devastating conflict.
Once you’ve explored the WWI Battlefields in France you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan out your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook, which you can take with you as you examine these WW1 battlefield sites.
Our database of WW1 Battlefields in France is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other World War One battlefields in France, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.
The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery is a US World War I cemetery and the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood, one of many US WW1 Battlefields in France.
Aisne-Marne American Cemetery is a World War I cemetery on the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood, which took place from 1 June to 26 June 1918.
The Battle of Belleau Wood saw American marines stop the German army from crossing the Marne River, halting their progress and securing the area. In honour of the marines who fought in this battle, the woods were renamed “Woods of the Marine Brigade”.
There are 2,289 graves at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, mostly belonging to soldiers who fought in the area and 250 of which are unnamed. Several memorials to the Battle of Belleau Wood surround the cemetery, including a memorial chapel, battle markers and a memorial to 1,060 missing soldiers. There is also a visitor centre and there is a guide on site when Aisne-Marne American Cemetery is open.
The Chateau-Thierry American Monument is a World War I American memorial and among the American WWI Battlefields in France.
The Chateau-Thierry American Monument, sometimes known as the Hill 204 Monument, commemorates those American soldiers who fought in the region during World War I, such as those who took part in the Second Battle of the Marne.
Overlooking the River Marne, the granite structure of the Chateau-Thierry American Monument is a commanding sight with its colonnades and heroic statues.
Cimetière Chinois de Nolette is a French World War One memorial site to the Chinese workers who contributed to the war effort. While not one of the actual WW1 Battlefields in France, it is an interesting World War One site.
Cimetière Chinois de Nolette or the Nolette Chinese Cemetery in France is the burial place of 849 Chinese workers who died during World War One. Brought by the British from the colonies to help build the military infrastructure, most of these workers died from an outbreak of cholera.
Cimetière Chinois de Nolette is a memorial to these workers, built in a traditional Chinese style.
The Douaumont Ossuary commemorates fallen soldiers from the Battle of Verdun. It holds the bones of 130,000 French and German soldiers who fell in the WW1 battlefields of France.
The Douaumont Ossuary in Verdun, France, is a memorial site to the soldiers who died whilst fighting in the Battle of Verdun during the First World War. 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.
The Douaumont Ossuary houses the bones of approximately 130,000 unknown soldiers from both sides, marking a fitting reminder to the savage consequences of this battle and the war as a whole. These remains can been seen through small windows inside the Douaumont Ossuary and the Ossuary’s cloisters are lined with plaques of the names of fallen soldiers and the locations of where each body was recovered. It also has a chapel where ceremonies take place.
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, the Douaumont Ossuary overlooks the battlefield of the Battle of Verdun. Visitors can climb to the top of its tower for panoramic views of these fields.
The first floor of the Douaumont Ossuary is dedicated to a museum of the First World War which includes weaponry, pieces from destroyed villages and the Minenwerfer, a well preserved 76 mm German mortar. Visitors to the Douaumont Ossuary can view a twenty minute film on the heroism of the Verdun soldiers in German, English and Dutch, which is shown every half hour.
The Dunkirk Cemetery and Memorial commemorate the commonwealth troops that fought there in both World Wars in the WW2 and WW1 battlefields in France.
The Dunkirk Cemetery and Memorial are located near the site where hundreds of thousands of allied troops were evacuated as part of Operation Dynamo – the historic campaign to rescue cut off troops from advancing German forces during World War II. Dunkirk had also played an important role as an allied base in World War I.
Dunkirk Cemetery houses 460 World War I graves and 793 from World War II, of which 223 are unidentified. At the entrance to Dunkirk Cemetery is the Dunkirk Memorial, commemorating 4,500 British Expeditionary Force troops who died or were captured there during World War II and who have no known grave.
The Etaples Military Cemetery is a commonwealth cemetery built on the former site of a WW1 military hospital.
The Etaples Military Cemetery stands on the former site of a vast military hospital complex used by the Allies during the First World War.
At its height, over 100,000 troops would have been camped here, either in training from the front or receiving treatment for wounds sustained. The hospitals themselves could cater for over 20,000 casualties at any one time. The site was chosen due to it’s distance from the front lines but good transport links, meaning troops could be brought here quickly without being in danger of enemy land attacks.
The cemetery was inaugurated on May 14th, 1922 by King George V and General Douglas Haig.
The site was briefly resurrected as a hospital complex during the early months of World War Two until the German conquest of France.
Today, the Etaples Military Cemetery contains the burials of over 10,000 Commonwealth troops and over 500 non-commonwealth combatants.
Fort Douaumont was one of the strongest, most state of the art forts in France at the time of the First World War. However, in 1916, it was destroyed during the Battle of Verdun and today it lies as one of many ruined First World War Battlefields in France.
Fort Douaumont (Fort de Douamont) was originally constructed in around 1885 following the Franco-Prussian wars, with ongoing works carried out until just before the First World War.
As a fully fortified structure with sophisticated weaponry and a sunken position on high ground, Fort Douaumont was considered to be a vital defensive post. However, when the Battle of Verdun commenced in February 1916, the village of Douaumont was in chaos. People went to shelter in Fort Douaumont but, in the confusion, nobody was firing the fort’s guns. German soldiers managed to infiltrate Fort Douaumont and its destruction ensued.
Today, visitors can see Fort Douaumont as it was at the end of World War One. 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.
Fort Vaux was a French fortress occupied by the Germans in the Battle of Verdun. It is one of many surviving WW1 Battlefields in France.
Fort Vaux or 'Fort De Vaux', located just outside Verdun, was a nineteenth century defensive structure which was fiercely defended by French forces during the Battle of Verdun in World War One. It was the second such fort to be captured after the nearby Fort Douaumont.
The soldiers refused to abandon Fort Vaux, staying until they had run out of all supplies and even carrier pigeons. In a famous moment which represents French heroism, Major Raynal, who was in the fort, was using these pigeons to carry messages to his commanding officers and continued trying until he reached his final carrier pigeon, known as Cheramie.
These efforts proved futile and Fort Vaux fell to the Germans in 1916, only to be evacuated and returned to the French in November that same year. Visitors can tour the inside of Fort Vaux, which includes its impressive weaponry and, of course, the pigeon loft.
Historial de la Grande Guerre is a museum near the site of the Battle of the Somme and focused on the social effects of World War I. A useful and interesting stop while exploring the WW1 Battlefields of France.
Historial de la Grande Guerre (the Museum of the Great War) in Peronne, France is dedicated to exploring the social and cultural effects of the First World War. Based near the site of the Battle of the Somme, Historial de la Grande Guerre offers an in-depth insight into World War I from the perspective of the soldiers who fought in it and the civilians whom it affected.
Each room in the Historial de la Grande Guerre is divided into two parts. In the centre of each room are the uniforms of each type of soldier contained in sunken display cases together with weaponry and other relevant pieces. Each room is then bordered by further displays, themselves divided into three segments to represent the French, English and German forces. Yet, despite the fact that it displays military pieces, Historial de la Grande Guerre does not aim to be a military museum or to commemorate those who died fighting. Instead, its aims are to look at the social effects of the war both on civilians and soldiers.
Historial de la Grande Guerre translates all of its exhibitions into English, French and German and contains tens of monitors showing silent films about the war.
Le P’tit Train de la Haute Somme is a reconstruction of the supply line used by allied forces in France during World War I which would have served the WWI Battlefields in France.
Le P’tit Train de la Haute Somme (the Somme train line) is a reconstruction of the original train line used to transport supplies to and from the battlefield during the Battle of the Somme in World War I.
Le P’tit Train de la Haute Somme still operates today as a tourist attractions, using traditional steam or diesel trains. Le P’tit Train de la Haute Somme also has a museum, some of which concerns the World War I aspects of the railways and others of which are related to the use of the railways for industrial purposes.
The Lochnagar Crater is a large indentation in the earth in France where one of the explosions was set off which signalled the start of the Battle of the Somme. It is one of the most dramatic WW1 Battlefields in France.
The Lochnagar Crater (Lochnagar Mine Crater) located in the village of La Boisselle in France’s Picardie region, is the site where one of the first explosions of the Battle of the Somme took place on 1 July 1916.
Set off by British forces at 7:28am, the mine which created the Lochnagar Crater was one of the biggest ever detonated at that time and Lochnagar Crater itself is an astounding 100 metres (328 feet) in diameter and 30 metres (98 feet) 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.
Louvemont was once a French village, unoccupied since the Battle of Verdun, World War One. It is a poignant example of the World War One Battlefields in France.
Louvemont near Bras-Sur-Meuse in France, was once a small French village. However, when the Battle of Verdun broke out in 1916, Louvemont became one of the “villages that died for France”. It was so badly damaged by war that Louvemont was never again occupied, becoming a ghost of its past.
Very little remains here, however that which does or has been built since commemorates Louvemont and its former residents. Like other former villages of its kind in this region, Louvemont contains several memorials and plaques describing the people who used to live there and the shops and families who inhabited it. There is now also a modest chapel at Louvemont which was consecrated in the 1930s together with a handful of graves.
This is a small site without any formal guidance. It might be seen as part of a general tour of Verdun.
The Newfoundland Memorial represents the best surviving trench system from WWI and commemorates the efforts of the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Newfoundland Regiment. It is amongst the best preserved WW1 Battlefields in France.
The Newfoundland Memorial, located in the town of Beaumont-Hamel in France’s Picardie region is a commemoration of the Canadian forces’ efforts during the First World War, particularly the Battle of the Somme.
The Battle of the Somme was made up of a series of battles in this region of France and, on 1 July 1916, the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment, who formed part of the 29th British Division, took part in one of these battles at Beaumont-Hamel. This bloody battle took a terrible toll on the Canadian forces, who lost around two-thirds of their soldiers within the space of an hour.
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 Newfoundland 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. Finally, at the interpretation centre, visitors can learn more about the origins of the Canadian soldiers and about the Somme. Guided tours are available in French and English.
Pozieres was the site of a major battle between Allied and German forces in 1916 during the First World War, forming the first part of the Battle of the Somme and is one of many surviving WW1 Battlefields in France.
Pozieres in France was the site of the Battle of Pozieres in World War I. Starting in the summer of 1916, the Battle of Pozieres was the first of numerous battles together known as The Battle of the Somme. Before the battle, the village of Pozieres was a vital strategic point for German forces, its elevated location along the Thiepval-Ginchy ridge providing critical defence.
The Battle of Pozieres was carried out into two tranches, the first to capture the German Pozieres Trench and the second to capture the defences known as the ’Old German Lines’.
Fighting was initially carried out by the British Third and Fourth Armies, who were then joined and relieved by numerous Australian infantry units. At the end of the Battle of Pozieres, the Allies emerged victorious, marking a significant loss for the German army. However, this victory came at a heavy price.
The Battle of Pozieres claimed the lives of thousands of British and Australian soldiers, making it one of the bloodiest battles on the western front. The Australian forces, including the first, second and fourth Australian Divisions suffered significant losses, having carried out the majority of the offensive.
Today, visitors can follow the battle with signs and information panels and view the site of the Battle of Pozieres, including its Tank Memorial and the remnants of the Gibraltar blockhouse which was a German observation tower. There is also a cemetery and several obelisk shaped memorials. Poziers is one of the sites that make up the Circuit of Remembrance, a route along which visitors can explore the Battlle of the Somme.
The Somme battlefields in France are a series of sites where the Battle of the Somme was fought during World War I. They are among the most famous WW1 Battlefields in France.
The Circuit of Remembrance is a route touring the Somme battlefields in France. The Battle of the Somme was an infamous First World War battle from July to November 1916, renowned for the controversial tactics employed by British forces and the exceptional number of casualties borne by the Allied forces.
A Flawed Plan
With the Allied and German forces in France deadlocked in trenches, British commanders planned to break the stalemate by destroying the German trenches and then having the British soldiers slowly walk across no-man’s land to capture them. This plan proved disastrous. Firstly, both the British troops and the French forces were already massively weakened by previous battles. This meant fewer French soldiers along the front line and that the remaining British soldiers were inexperienced volunteers, brought in to repopulate the depleted army.
Secondly, the plan was inextricably flawed. Not only did the extensive preparation by the British and the ongoing bombardment alert German forces to the upcoming attack, but the bombing raids and shelling barely dented the German fortifications. Therefore, when the soldiers started making their way across France’s muddy plains to the enemy lines, the Germans were prepared. Those who managed to make their way to the German trenches were then forced to try and return, unable to scale the barbed wire.
Circuit of Remembrance
A forty mile route, the Circuit of Remembrance or Somme battlefields tour starts from either the town of Albert or that of Peronne, 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 of Somme battlefields can download audio guides to the route for free from various sources, including from the website of the Historial de la Grande Guerre museum.
Many of the routes of the Somme battlefields are carried out by taxi and the taxi firms in the area have prepared itineraries for different routes. You can also walk the route (guided or not), do it by cart, by plane or by train, the latter route being the same as that used to carry supplies to the soldiers. The trip can take anything from half a day to a full day or more, depending on your level of interest.
The Chapel of the Souvenir Francais is a memorial to French soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme, one of the most well-known WW1 Battlefields in France.
The Chapel of the Souvenir Francais is a memorial church to the French soldiers who fought in the First World War, particularly the Battle of the Somme.
It was originally founded by the du Bos family, who lost their son in the battle on 25 September 1916 and who wanted a memorial for him and his comrades.
Located in the village of Rancourt, the Chapel of the Souvenir Francais stands next to Rancourt Cemetery, which, at 28,000 square metres is France’s largest burial ground for the soldiers of the Somme. Over 8,500 soldiers are buried here, each symbolised by a simple white cross.
The Chapel of the Souvenir Francais is one of the sites along the Circuit of Remembrance, a route which explores the role this region played in the First World War, specifically between September and November 1916.
The Franco Australian Museum in the Picardie region of France explores the contributions and experiences of Australian troops during World War I. An interesting stop to take while exploring the WW1 Battlefields of France.
The Franco Australian Museum in Villers-Bretonneux in France is one of the sites along the route dedicated to First World War history, known as the Circuit of Remembrance.
The Franco Australian Museum looks at the role played by Australian forces during the World War I. A small museum based on the first floor of the Victoria School, the Franco Australian Museum offers a variety of exhibitions including visual presentations.
The town of Villers-Bretonneux was also the site of fierce fighting during the First World War.
The Somme 1916 Museum explores the realities of the First World War Battle of the Somme and outlines the WWI Battlefields of France.
The Somme 1916 Museum is part of the Circuit of Remembrance, a tour of the Picardie region of France dedicated to the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme was one of the most brutal battles of the First World War.
Based in a former crypt in the town of Albert which later acted as a Second World War underground shelter, The Somme 1916 Museum displays a series of exhibits relating to the Battle of the Somme, including original weaponry, uniforms and equipment as well as looking at the experiences of the soldiers in the trenches.
The Somme 1916 Museum uses a variety of methods to try and recreate soldiers’ lives, immersing visitors in the experience with imagery, sound effects and lighting. Guided tours are available in English, French and German as are films in the museum’s projection room.
The Ulster Memorial Tower in France is a memorial to the men of Ulster who fought and gave their lives during World War I. A lesser-known but interesting place to visit while exploring the WW1 Battlefields of France.
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.
Inside the Ulster Memorial Tower, visitors can view the plaques dedicated to the Irish soldiers, several paintings and visit its memorial chapel.
The Verdun Memorial is a comprehensive museum of the Battle of Verdun and a memorial to fallen soldiers set in the Verdun battlefield, one of the most famous WW1 Battlefields in France.
The Verdun Memorial (Mémorial de Verdun) 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.
The Verdun Memorial is set amidst the site of this battle and the surrounding landscape bears the scars of the war, including mine and shell craters. The Verdun Memorial Museum displays an array of objects and documentation dating back to the Battle of Verdun, including weaponry, French and German aircraft, photographs and medical equipment.
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. Exhibits are translated into English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch, making the Verdun Memorial very accessible and the museum is divided thematically.
For those wishing to tour Verdun generally and see the different sites, the Verdun Memorial offers advice and itineraries, meaning it’s a good starting point for anyone touring independently. It also has a dedicated educational centre.
Vis-En-Artois Cemetery is a First World War burial site in France’s Pas de Calais region.
Vis-En-Artois Cemetery is a burial site of Canadian and British soldiers who died in the First World War located between the villages of Vis-En-Artois and Haucourt.
Canadian forces took these villages in August 1918 and Vis-En-Artois Cemetery, which originally held 430 graves belonging to fallen Canadian soldiers and some from the Second Duke of Wellington regiment, has since been expanded to incorporate graves from smaller, surrounding cemeteries.
Vis-En-Artois Cemetery is now home to 2,369 First World War graves and is managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Many of the graves at Vis-En-Artois Cemetery are unidentified and there are also several memorials.