The 150 ft. tall Thiepval Memorial was designed by the renowned British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who produced the entire city plan for New Delhi (built between 1912 and 1930) as well as the iconic Cenotaph Memorial at Whitehall in London.
The Thiepval Memorial took four years to construct and was dedicated in 1932. Unlike many other Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials to the missing, it wasn’t built in a cemetery, but a cemetery was added to the site later, which contains 300 British and 300 French burials.
On the inside walls of the sixteen large pillars are inscribed the names of the 72,245 British and South African soldiers who died in the area and who have no known grave. Over 90% of these were lost during the period July 1st – November 18th, 1916). Missing soldiers from other nations in the British Empire are commemorated elsewhere. Thiepval is the largest British memorial to the missing in the world.
On July 1st, 1916, the British 32nd Division, an untested ‘Kitchener’s Army’ unit, attacked at this sector, where there were two particularly strong German fortifications. Their objective for the first day was to drive to the top of the ridge, to about where the memorial stands, but the division lost 3,949 men and at the end of the day was back at their starting point. Soon after, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig shifted the offensive effort to the south, where progress had been made on the first day. Thiepval Ridge wasn’t captured by the British until September 28th, 1916, in a four-day battle.