Serre Road CemeterySerre Road Cemetery
©Serre Road Cemetery|CWGC

Commonwealth Cemeteries and French Necropolis


This sector, on the borders of the Artois and the Somme, was bitterly fought throughout the Great War. Along the road from Serre (Pas-de-Calais) to Mailly-Maillet (Somme) and over a few hundred meters, twelve military cemeteries bear witness to the violence of this repeated fighting.

In three days in June 1915, 700 French soldiers, mostly reservists from the Arras, Lille and Valenciennes regiments, died during the assault in front of Serre-Hébuterne given as a diversion to the great French offensive on the Artois hills.

A year later, on July 1, 1916, the British launched between Serre and Maricourt the Battle of the Somme. This July 1 marks one of the most tragic pages in the history of the Empire: after 24 hours of offensive, 19,240 men are killed.

On November 11 of the same year, a new attack fails. The hamlet of Serre in Puisieux would not fall until late February 1917. At Hébuterne, in March 1918, the Australians contained the German thrust. And in August 1918, this sector would be one of the theaters of the Allied offensive, known as the “100 days”, which would allow the liberation of the occupied territories and lead to the Armistice.


Yesterday's fights

Today the places of memory

Queens Cemetery and Railway Hollow now offer an excellent view of the permanent battlefield that was this sector. From these heights can be seen the nearby village of Beaumont-Hamel, where the men of the Newfoundland Regiment distinguished themselves for their bravery in the British offensive of the summer of 1916.

The French necropolis at Serre-Hébuterne and the Commonwealth cemeteries provide a very good overview of how each country conceived of its places of remembrance in the aftermath of the war. Wishing to give an account of the sacrifice of the Nation, France opened vast grouping necropolises with standardized graves. For their part, the countries of the British Empire made the choice to maintain their cemeteries close to the places of combat, where the atmosphere of the most beautiful English gardens reigns today.