August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of what had been considered the war to end all wars, World War I. Also called the Great War, many European governments and local organizations will conduct special ceremonies, exhibits and the like to commemorate battles and military personnel who lost their lives to save their countries.
Although Great Britain was heavily involved in World War I, none of the battles were fought on her soil. The war, however, occupies a central part of the British psyche. Thus, visitors will find a wealth of information and exhibits in the country's museums that can act as a good starting point before heading to the European continent to see actual historical sites. As part of a massive effort to get ready for the centenary, the Imperial War Museum has undergone an extensive renovation and remains closed until July 19, 2014, in preparation for centenary celebrations. Other British museums where visitors can get a sense of World War I history are the National Army Museum and the Museum of Liverpool, which has an extensive collection of objects used by soldiers during World War I.
Visiting the actual sites where fighting occurred is essential. Not all are equal, however, when it comes to the experience provided on site. Although sites abound, choose wisely when determining which World War I locations you want to visit, particularly if your time is limited. Many of the bet sites are battlefields in France and Belgium where the bulk of the fighting occurred on the western front, along with crucial areas on the eastern front in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.
Battle of the Somme
Fought from July to September 1916 and renowned for the controversial tactics used by British forces and the high number of Allied casualties, the Battle of the Somme was one of the pivotal battles of World War I. Located 85 miles northeast of Paris and 55 miles from Lille, the battlefields are best viewed from the Circuit of Remeberance, a 40-mile route with numerous stops with markers and programs that help explain the battle.
Originally constructed in 1885, Fort Douaument was a fully fortified structured with sophisticated weaponry that played a key role in the Battle of Verdun, fought in February 1916. The structure today looks much as it did at the end of World War I. Visitors can tour its three levels to see guns, turrets, weaponry, barracks and command posts.
For those venturing to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, ANZAC Cove on Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula is one of the country's top tourists site. On the beaches here in April 1915, troops from Great Britain, Australia and new Zealand began the initial part of the unsuccessful Gallipoli Campaign that attempted to remove Turkey from the war. Several memorials are on the site and are home to annual ANZAC Day ceremonies.