Monday, 13 October 2014

The magnitude of the WW1 Battlefields stir emotions

I just returned from a visit to the WW1 Western Front, where I saw the battlefields, memorials and cemeteries. I went to look and to discover.

Having never studied WW1 at school, I had a lot to learn and so I bought a few books about WW1 and the conflict on the Western Front. From 1914 – 1918, World War I took place across much of Europe that saw 16 million people killed. On the west side of Europe, on 4th August 1914, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France. After the German march on Paris was halted, what became known as the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition, with a trench line that would change little until 1917.

Fierce fighting took place along the northern part of this Western Front, especially around Ypres, Vimy Ridge and The Somme. It is these areas that I went to see. I have included a few pictures below from my trip.

The Menin Gate, in Ypres, where The Last Post if played every night.

Restored German Trenches, at Vimy Ridge.

A very large German Cemetery.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, The Somme.

Allied trenches at Newfoundland Memorial Park.

Lochnagar Crater, Near Albert, The Somme.

Tank Memorial, near Pozières, The Somme.

Row upon row of headstones.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

Remembrance Poppies.

It was very moving and sombre. The waste of human life was enormous. In all areas of the war, 16 million people died in WW1 and looking at the ages of the soldiers on their headstones, the typical age was in their early twenties.

I will be running a motorcycle tour to these battlefields next year, so that others can see the sadness of what happened. It certainly wass an emotional experience to go and see it for myself.


redlegsrides said...

As a young officer stationed in Germany, the battalion commander put all his officers on a bus and we toured some of the WWI and WWII battlefields as OPD: Officer Professional Development. I can still recall in my mind's eye the fields of Verdun, green grass covering the old trenches, the craters left by the thousands of artillery rounds, quite sobering.

Trobairitz said...

The pictures speak for themselves, don't they? So somber.

A sad time in history to be sure. So many lives wasted. It really must have been hell for the soldiers.

Canajun said...

That could be a really interesting tour, especially if there was someone knowledgeable about the war in attendance to put some context to the things you'll see. We visited that area a few years ago and no matter how much you study the Great War you can never be prepared for the sight of so many graveyards, so many tombstones, and so many memorials to the thousands who have no known grave. We actually found it quite emotionally exhausting.

Dar said...

It is good that we remember and hope for peace, but I get so angry over the loss of a generation and other young souls lost in the subsequent wars and numerous conflicts around the world. It seems that humans never learn lessons from the past because of all the troubling conflicts going on to this day. Thank you for sharing, my grandpas and great grandpas fought for freedom in WW1 and WW2. I also think about my friends who are currently serving around the world. Very somber indeed.

David Masse said...

My grandfather fought in that war, and miraculously survived after being gassed.

One day I'd like to visit.

Every now and then they still discover unexploded ordnance.

Gary France said...

Charlie6 - That Battalion commander must have been a wise man.

Gary France said...

Trobairitz - You are so right, so many wasted lives. “The War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened afterwards consisted in battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of Fate.”
― Winston Churchill

Gary France said...

Canajun - Yes, nothing can prepare you for what you will see. Standing there in the battlefields, I tried to sense what the soldiers must have felt. I know I failed as there is no way of comprehending what happened, let alone understand the feelings of those that took part.

Gary France said...

Dar - I share your views, but peace will never come. There are too many bad people out there who put their own ambitions above anyone else. I like it that your grandpas and great grandpas fought for our freedom. I am very grateful to them.

Gary France said...

David - Surviving WWI must have been very difficult for the front line soldiers, especially if gassed. Yes, they still find ordnance and occasionally, bodies.