Thursday 21st June 2018
After a slow start in the morning followed by a scenic drive we decided that we wouldn’t be able to make it to Colmar, our original destination, today. A quick look at the map showed us that there was an ACSI campsite nearby in Verdun so we decided to head for that. On arrival we were given a nice shady pitch by a stream which was lovely and peaceful, but we were unable to get a satellite signal because there were too many trees. I know what you are thinking, how can you last in such an inhospitable environment like France for two nights with out T.V., but I’m glad to say we survived……..we just went out to town!
And it was just as well we did as there was some sort of festival going on with bands playing on every corner.
The town was packed and everyone was having fun, there was a great atmosphere with lots of people bustling around.
The restaurants were extremely busy and so we settled on a little cafe attached to a bakery. The food was all home cooked and excellent, and of course the choice of cakes afterwards was amazing!
This rather flash hotel was in the centre of town and had a good view of all the action without being too close!
I knew Verdun had been the scene of a great WWI battle but had not known of the scale………
There are many monuments to those who were injured or who lost their live in this battle, the Germans had 336,00-434,000 casualties with 143,000 killed, and the French had 379,000 casualties with 163,000 being killed. It’s so hard to conceive that huge loss of life in such a relatively small area!
Friday 22nd June 2018
This is the entrance to the underground citadel of Verdun, there are over 4 miles of tunnels which housed a bakery, kitchens, a hospital, a telephone exchange and an amunition dump to meet the needs of an army.
This is the Douaumont Ossuary near Verdun and it contains the skeletal remains of some 300,000 soldiers that perished on the battlefields.
This is the view from just one of the small windows and when you see the size of the building it puts the whole thing into perspective!
This is just one of the many cemetaries that surround the ossuary and these house the bodies that they could name!
From the top of the tower you can see the size and scale of the battle.
It really makes you want to weep when you see such destruction and loss of life.
This is the Church built as a memorial at the destroyed village of Fleury. Fleury was one of 9 villages that were obliterated during this battle. It is estimated that in places 10 shells fell on every one square centimetre in this 50 square mile area.
There are markers in place of the houses and businesses which stood here before the war. When the war ended this area was never reclaimed, the whole of the battlefield was planted with conifers and the ridge was to be left as a permanent reminder of the futility of war, so that future generations would never forget.
“Lest we Forget”
At the end of the day we went to a Son et Lumiere sound and light show which depicted the battle. Jane had asked the ticket seller if we could park close to the entrance as she can’t walk too far at the moment and we were a little embarrassed to find we were this close!
The show didn’t start until it got dark, but we had to get there in the light to be able to find our seats…………….
The show was terrific…………
and there were so many actors used to capture the horrors of war………….
There were many tears shed by the huge audience……………..
And as we departed the arena we were left with the message of PAIX, PEACE, lit large on the hillside………
For the French, Verdun signifies the futility of war!
I would love to visit the WWI battlefields. I don’t think you quite understand the scale of the destruction and loss of life until you see one of these cemeteries and the sheer number of graves, and then that’s just the bodies they found or could put names to. It’s horrifying to think what our grandfathers went through, and the same in WWII as well.
Must get back to France, Debbie hasn’t really been to Normandy or Brittany. Still, less than 2 months now until we go to Spain.
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