The Somme and its Regeneration

The Landscape of the Somme

My studies of the landscape take in the immediate countryside around the town of Albert, the village of La Boisselle and leading up to the Thiepval Monument.

The River Somme carves its way through this landscape from the Forest of Arrouaise near Saint-Quentin to the Bay of the Somme, in the English Channel. The river is fed by the ground water in the chalk basin in which it lies and draws a striking parallel to the geology of the Wiltshire and Berkshire chalk downs.

John Masefield lived for a short time on the edge of the Parish of Aston Tirrold where I live, right next to the Berkshire Downs. His observations echoed mine.

“The whole field of the Somme is chalk hill and downland, like similar formations in England. It has about it, in every part of it, certain features well known to every one who has ever traveled in chalk country." John Masefield

This land was fought over since William the Conqueror in 1066 but it was the First World War that managed to obliterate any sign of its rich history. Villages, forests, farms, communities and livestock were displaced and destroyed in a very short space of time. Medieval churches were shelled, Roman roads broken and the land was covered in mud and misery. What remained was memory and resilience. The villages where rebuilt, the roads re-laid and the communities moved back and started again.

The Somme 1916
Aerial Views: Aerial high oblique view of Ginchy, showing explosions

What I seek to understand is how the landscape influenced the style of combat in the First World War and how the regeneration of France started, who managed and funded it.

The Regeneration - How did it happen?