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Thiepval Memorial to be restored

30 June 2015

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has announced plans for a major restoration programme for the Thiepval Memorial - the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme and the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world - ahead of the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme in July 2016.

Work on the Thiepval Memorial will start in July 2015 and is planned to finish in early March 2016. It will address a number of issues with the memorial - particularly drainage and water ingress. During this period both the site and the cemetery will remain open to the public.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is providing £1.6 million towards the restoration and enhancement of the memorial as part of the First World War commemorations.

Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, said:  "We must never forget what happened in the Battle of the Somme.

"The restoration of the Thiepval monument will mean new generations will be inspired by the incredible stories of courage and sacrifice, by all those soldiers who gave their lives for us."

The CWGC's Operations Director for Western Europe, Mr Richard Nichol explained: "For nearly a century the Thiepval Memorial has stood as a monument to the sacrifice of those killed on the Somme in the First World War.

Today, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission begins one of the most important projects ever undertaken by the organisation as we work to ensure that this iconic commemorative structure will stand in their memory for the next 100 years."

Described by Architectural Historian Gavin Stamp as "The absolute, ultimate pure monument", the Thiepval Memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1932.

It bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. 

Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.

The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery sited behind the memorial contains equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves in recognition of the close bonds between Great Britain and France.

The CWGC is holding an open day and showcasing an exhibition at the Memorial on July 1, with the annual ceremony itself to commence at 11.00am.

Full press release

Our leaflet guide to the Somme and the Thiepval Memorial