"The Somme" - a name that will live forever in history. One that evokes thoughts of the tragic period of the early 20th Century when nation fought nation. When glory was sought and found, but when misery and human suffering was never far away. So, although northern France is now among the most peaceful and relaxing of areas in which to holiday, no visitor will leave without having been touched by the Somme's terrible legacy.
The number of troops on all sides who were killed, injured and mentally scarred were unimaginably large. Yet the fact is that most soldiers returned home to their families and careers. So, while you take some time to remember the casualties, think too of the comradeship and fellowship that developed between men while serving in those foreign fields.
The Battle of the Somme started at 7.30am on the 1st of July 1916. By the end of the day the British Army had suffered its worst ever day in any war before and since - 19,240 dead, over 38,000 others missing or injured. The objectives of the first day and sites of the overall battle are all easily reached from Maison Lavande which itself sat on the German 3rd defence lines and is actually built on reclaimed trench and tunnel areas.
Whether the First World War is a passion or simply something you have read about, you can visit and learn from the many Somme Battle sites near your holiday home. Hawthorne Ridge, Beaumont Hamel with its superb preserved trenches, the magnificent Monument and visitor centre at Thiepval, the Ulster Tower and the huge Crater called Lochnagar at La Boisselle. These and more are within easy reach.
However, the battlefield is right on your doorstep. Even a casual look across some local fields reveals the 100-year-old scars of war, and there is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Morval. The owners of Maison Lavande have a keen interest in the First World War, and a collection of artefacts is on display in the cottage. Among these is the personal suitcase of Major Wolfe Murray of the Seaforth Highlanders.
Local walks will take you through some lovely villages such as Guillemont, Montauban, Longueval, Ginchy etc. The renowned Leuze Woods, known to the Tommies as Lousy Woods, are close to Combles which is only 2.5 kilometres away. These and many other superb battlefield walks take you to places where acts of bravery were carried out by extraordinary men at great risk to, and often the cost of, their lives.
Albert with its world famous former "leaning Madonna" on the Basilica is close by. An interesting attraction is the system of tunnels underneath the streets of the town. These were used by troops - you can still see grafitti written and drawn by the Tommies. The "Somme 1916 Museum" is located in Albert and gives a realistic representation of life in the trenches. The Historial de la Grande Guerre at Peronne is also a must see. Vimy Ridge and Arras with its wonderful underground chambers are around ½ hour away by car.