It takes less than a minute to cycle the distance that stood between the British and German trenches in the Somme – a few hundred feet across ‘No Man’s Land’.
A gruelling hill took the riders to Thiepval. Conversations about the challenging climb disappeared when the Memorial there came into view.
Silence fell as eyes fixed upon the Thiepval Memorial, which shows the names of British and South African Servicemen who died during the Battle of the Somme – over 72,000 of them.
Trenches are rarely visibly in the Somme. Instead, wheat grows in the undulating fields which have been tilled by farmers for 100 years. It is the monuments to the fallen that remind us of those who gave everything for our freedom.
Aside from the memorials, one of the few other sights that fighting ever took place here is the Lochnagar Crater, which scars the landscape. Royal Engineer tunnelling companies had been mining under a German field fortification for months, planting over 24 tonnes of explosives. When it was set off on the morning of 1 July 1916, debris shot 4,000ft in the air and rained down on those beneath it.
The crater left is twice as long as a swimming pool and five times as deep. It was the start of a bloody assault between the British and Germans, which cost thousands of lives.
Seeing it you could imagine how hard and close the fighting would have been.
Photo credit Mark Dawson | Help for Heroes