Construction of a new 400 square metre museum as an extension of the Thiepval Memorial Visitor Centre has been completed which will now see the installation of unique imagery, museum exhibits and multimedia displays.
The opening of the new museum is scheduled for 1 June 2016 and will be a prelude to the Centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme, the iconic battle on the 1 July 1916 which was the bloodiest day for the British Army, becoming a symbol of the First World War in Great Britain.
Installed this week will be one of the most prominent and key pieces of the exhibition being a 60 metre long illustrated panorama drawing depicting the first day of the Battle of the Somme, as an open imaginary window onto the battlefield on 1 July 1916.
The drawing The Great War, the first day of the Battle of the Somme is the work of Joe Sacco, an artist who lives in the United States, was born on the island of Malta and spent much of his childhood in Australia. It was during his upbringing in Australia that inspired his interest in the First World War hearing stories of the country’s disastrous involvement in the Dardanelles campaign of 1915, which is commemorated each year on ANZAC Day.
Joe Sacco says :
“The First World War had been in my mind for years. I began reading about the Somme, Verdun and became fascinated and horrified by the concept of trench warfare and the idea that so many men lost their lives fighting over such small area of ground. That fascination and horror manifested into the image I have created to depict the first day of the Battle of the Somme.”
The second key piece soon to be installed will be a large scale reproduction of the aeroplane used by Georges Guynemer, a French pilot during the Great War.
This will feature as part of the Heroic Figures aspect of the exhibition. From 1916, the role of aviation in the war increased and with this the emergence of great figures or “sky heroes”.
Further exhibits will include : accounts and testimonies from missing soldiers of all nationalities giving perspectives of the battle ; display of items from the Historial’s collections, which are archaeological remains left by the war found during the construction process.
The Germans on the Somme – a specific installation to explain the German experience of the Battles of the Somme ;
The Battles of the Somme ; Mourning and Missing – a comparison of two types of memories ; the massive loss of men in a total, destructive war symbolised by the fate of the Missing and the heroic figures.
The Mass of the Missing – a specific room “Chapel to the Missing” will be dedicated to those soldiers whose names adorn the Thiepval Monument of which there are 72,194 British and South African soldiers who fell and were declared missing on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918.
When opened joint tickets will be available for entrance to the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and the new museum at the Thiepval site.