A HISTORY OF THE BUILDING OF THE THIEPVAL VISITOR CENTRE
WHICH WAS OPENED IN SEPTEMBER 2004.
This was a joint venture between British and
French partners and on completion responsibility for the
whole Centre was assumed by the French partner.
British interest is maintained through the "Comité
franco-britannique" which meets annually. The British
Embassy in Paris, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission,
the Lutyens Trust, the Charles Skey Charitable Trust,
the Imperial War Museums and the Royal British Legion are members of this committee.
The Secretary (2014) is M. Alain Petitjean who is the Joint
Chief Executive of the Conseil Général of the Somme.
This website, which is no longer up-dated, was the original
Thiepval Project British fundraising website.
A Stop Press element on this website was maintained on the
basis of information supplied by Sir Frank Sanderson. He
retired in September 2014 and this website now remains for
The Manager of the Centre (2014) is M. Vincent Laude.
The telephone number of the Centre is 003126.96.36.199.47
Useful information can be
found on en.historial.org
Entrance is free.
Thiepval is the largest
and one of the most emotive memorials to the Missing from
any war in which British soldiers have died. It stands in an
isolated windswept position on the Somme - and had
absolutely no facilities for visitors and nothing to explain
what had happened there in 1916. All that visitors found
were 600 British and French graves and the names of over
72,000 British soldiers carved into the stone of the massive
memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and beautifully
maintained by the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Tragically, many of us have a direct family connection with
at least one of these names. That is why we return; and that
is why many thousands of school children are taken there
In 1999, under the
patronage of His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent and Sir
Michael Jay, the then British Ambassador to France, a small
group of people came together to rectify this sad situation.
This group consisted of Sir Frank Sanderson,
Colonel Piers Storie-Pugh, then of the Royal British Legion, Madame Geneviève Potié MBE (the Mayor of Thiepval),
Brigadier Andrew Gadsby (then Military Attaché at the
British Embassy in Paris) and Sénateur Fernand Demilly, then Président of the Conseil
Général of the Département of the Somme.
After searching for a way
forward it was soon realised by the British members of the
group that the only solution was for them to seek to raise
funds in the UK and then discuss the matter with the
Département of the Somme. Sénateur Demilly then generously
agreed not only to match funds raised in the UK, but also to
organise the construction and then to run the visitor
centre. This arrangement was welcomed by the British
Government and UK fundraising went ahead. The Centre was
opened by His Royal Highness on 27th September 2004 and is
now the property of and run by the Conseil Général de la
Since 2004 the Conseil Général has spent considerable funds
expanding the car park and installing air conditioning. The
Thiepval Project provided a mechanism to ring the church
bell, provided extra UV protection on the windows and
replaced some of the exhibition panels which had faded in
the sun. In early 2014 with funds from the Charles Skey
Charitable Trust a new edition of the exhibition guidebook
For details of all that happened to make this
possible please go to -
CREATION OF THE CENTRE'
For details of the opening ceremony in September 2004 go to
'NEWSLETTER - FINAL EDITION' and
All the research, history, fundraising and
UK management was voluntary and including the un-costed
'time' of members of the Somme departmental staff the total
cost was in the region of £2,000,000