Albert was founded as a Roman outpost called Encre, in about 54 BC. It is remembered today as the site of the Battle of the Somme in World War I.
During World War I, the statue of Mary and the infant Jesus - designed by sculptor Albert Roze and dubbed the "Golden Virgin" - on top of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières was hit by a shell on January 15, 1915, and was put on a horizontal position and was near falling. The Germans said that whoever made the statue fall would lose the war, and a number of legends surrounding the "Leaning Virgin" developed among German, French, and British soldiers. The Leaning Virgin became an especially familiar image to the thousands of British soldiers who fought at the Battle of the Somme (1916), many of whom passed through Albert, which was situated three miles from the front lines.
The German army recaptured the town in March 1918 during the Spring Offensive; the British, to prevent the Germans from using the church tower as an observation post, directed their bombardment against the basilica. The statue fell in April 1918 and was never recovered. In August 1918 the Germans were again forced to retreat, and the British reoccupied Albert until the end of the war.
Albert was completely reconstructed after the war, including widening and re-orienting the town's main streets. The Basilica, however, was faithfully rebuilt according to its original design by Eduoard Duthoit, the son of the architect who had overseen its construction in 1885-95. The present statue is an exact replica of Roze's original design, and a war memorial designed by Roze and featuring an image of the "Leaning Virgin" can be seen in the "Abri" (Shelter) Museum, which houses souvenirs of the war. The underground shelters in which the museum is located served as protective bunkers for Albert's residents during aerial bombardments in World War II.
The city also appears in a short story, The Garden of Forking Paths, by the Argentine writer Jorge Luís Borges. In the story, it is the location of a British artillery park that the Germans are about to bomb during World War I.
Albert has a train station that has links to Calais
- Somme Trench Museum (Musée des Abris - Somme 1916), Rue Anicet Godin, ☎ . 22 Jan to mid-Dec: 09:00-18:00. The museum is inside a tunnel that dates back to the 13th century, and was rehabilitated into an air-raid shelter in 1938. It’s 10 m below ground, and explores the life of soldiers in the trenches during the 1st of July 1916 offensive. Display cases present various objects, material and weapons used in that period. They illustrate the evolution in weaponry and the appearance of new technologies such as gas and tanks. Adults €7, children €4 (free for children under 6 years).
- 1 Historial of the Great War Thiepval (Historial de la Grande Guerre Thiepval), 8 rue de l’Ancre, Thiepval,, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Nov-Feb 09:30-17:00; Mar-Oct: 09:30-18:00; closed 10 Dec-22 Jan. This museum focuses on the Battles of the Somme (1914-1918) and the Aces of Aviation. Adults €6; children (ages 7–15) and students €3; veterans, seniors and people with disabilities €4.
Le Corner's Pub on the corner of is a lovely pub / bar which offers free wireless internet.
Camping Municipal offers basic camping amenities. The site has hot showers, clean toilets and a very friendly lady owner who speaks good English.