My husband is fascinated by all things World War. Especially the battlefields of World War 1. The enormity of what happened in such a tiny geographical area, how many lives were lost, and in such a horrific manner, is something inconceivable to him, and he finds it compelling. Every time we visit France in the car, I know that a part of him is keen to reconnect with that momentous piece of history, to try to make some kind of sense of it all, to understand the sacrifice.
I have walked in trenches, stood silently in cemetaries, and you cannot fail to be silenced in those moments, to feel a sombre connection to the ordinary human beings who lost their lives there. So why, I continue to ask him, when he suggests that we visit on a family break, would we want our children to experience it?
At World Travel Market this year I decided to talk to representatives from Visit Somme, and Battlefields 14-18, to see if there was a way to make First World War history accessible to families. I came away inspired. With centenary commemorations happening over the next 4 years, there has never been a better time to visit WW1 sites, and the need to sensitively bring events alive for children is very much in evidence. In fact, with secondary school students studying the First World War, and my daughter, entering year 6 in September, due to complete a module on World War 2, now is the perfect time to discover this massively important part of our history with your family.
How to visit the Somme with children
- Download the Somme Battlefields app and follow the Rememberance Trail: listen to stories of men and women who lived through the Great War in the Somme. Through the stories of 12 fictional characters, children can learn about the history of an international war, and trench warfare, in an interactive, engaging, and sensitive way.
- Go on a family treasure hunt at Château de Condé: the liberation of the Château during the First Battle of the Marne is recreated through a fun treasure hunt for families that will see children learning through the excitement of the hunt.
- Go geocaching: if you’ve never tried geocaching with the kids, I guarantee you will love it! Many of the World War 1 sites play host to a geocache, which will inspire children to visit, discovering snippets of information along the way, without the heaviness of a full guided tour.
- Spend a day in Amiens: the tourist board at Amiens run regular children’s and family workshops on the city’s history, including the decisive battle of Amiens, which changed the course of the war. The spectacular cathedral is also worth visiting, and the audio tour aimed specifically at children will ensure that they stay interested while adults browse.
- Take a trip on the Somme bay Railway: The Baie de Somme is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, and has become reknowned for eco-tourism. One of the nicest ways to explore is on the vintage coaches of the the Somme Bay Railway steam train, stopping off along the way to dip down onto the beaches – look out for some beautiful birds!
My husband will be happy the next time we visit northern France. I’m hugely inspired by the opportunities for children to learn about World War history in an accessible, non-frightening way. But even more than that, the Somme area holds many more charms to captivate families. From stunning beaches to rich eco-sites, through cycle tours and horse-riding, I know that the kids would love a week of discovery, activity, and leisure in this beautiful region.
Do you have any tips for visiting World War sites with the kids?
For more information on Amiens click here. Or read more about the Somme Bay Railway, the Château the Condé, and the Somme Rememberance Trail. For more on geocaching visit www.geocaching.com to find cache sites close to the battlefields and memorial sites.