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My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

Article about: I'm just back from a very short break to Northern France, an area I have never visited before. I had two full days to pack in as much as possible and I think I achieved my goal! This thread

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    Default My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    I'm just back from a very short break to Northern France, an area I have never visited before. I had two full days to pack in as much as possible and I think I achieved my goal!
    This thread is to share my brief tour of France and Northern Europe with you and bring some of the sights to those who may never get to see them.

    Ok, I started off on Thursday 24th in the afternoon by landing in Calais and had a couple of hours drive to my hotel in St Quentin. As I drove deeper into France I started to come across signs to memorials and cemeteries along the way. I stopped by in the village of Souchez, just north of Arras. It is a Commonwealth cemetery called Cabaret Rouge.
    The cemetery is one of the largest British cemeteries on the Western Front and was begun as a cemetery in 1916. After the armistice it received bodies from small cemeteries and individual graves on the battlefields of Arras and other points in the Artois area. It holds 6,800 British, 750 Canadian, more than 100 Australian, over 40 South African and 15 Indian graves. The majority are unidentified.
    It is also the cemetery from where the Canadian Unknown Soldier was exhumed from and whose body now rests in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at the National War Memorial in Ottowa.
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    Last edited by Adrian; 11-29-2011 at 10:52 AM.

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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    I always like to check through the cemetery registers when I visit them just to see if there are any of the fallen who bear my surname. Purely by chance, there were two here which was quite a surprise as my name isn't very common..........
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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    Along the road, barely a mile away I came across another cemetery. This one was the German cemetery of Neuville - St Vaast. It is the largest German WW1 site in Fance and contains the bodies of just under 45,000 men. I genuinely could not believe the scale of this place, nor the figures of the fallen. My photos do not do this site justice as it is so vast, the crosses go on seemingly forever and disappear over the gently rolling gound. I could not take photos which show the true size of the cemetery and encapsulate the never ending rows of graves. The majority of crosses bear four names which means there are roughly 11,000 of them. The mind boggles to think how much bigger it would be if each soldier had his own grave marker.
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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    The next day I was up and over breakfast I contemplated the previous afternoon. It dawned on me that within less than a mile I had witnessed the resting place of over 50,000 men and boys. I had read about and seen documentaries about the First World War but the absolute scale of the losses on all sides was only just starting to hit home.
    Today I had decided to visit the area of the Somme as it was fairly local. I started off by visiting the medieval town of Péronne. In Péronne and in the chateau there is the Museum of the Great War. Below are some photos of the displays. I apologise for the quality but flash photography is forbidden and I had nothing to rest my camera on.
    The displays were good but the way they have them laid out was not the easiest for taking pics, I much prefer upright displays where you can see the uniforms and equipment properly.
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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    Very nice Adrian. That museum's method of displaying uniform items is kind of strange. I don't think I have ever seen anything like it.

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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    After a quick lunch of omelette au fromage avec frites, une verre de Leffe et une café I hit the road towards the Thiepval Memorial. En route I happened across another British cemetery and for the life of me I can't remember it's name. I'll add it later when I've looked it up.
    One thing that did strike me was the mud. I had driven a couple of hundred metres up a wet and muddy farm track to the cemetery. The car was sliding and when I got out it was caked in mud, the wheel arches were full, the wheels covered in this sticky, thick mud. Not much of a comparison I know but it goes a little way towards understanding how conditions must've been living in wet muddy trenches where the mud clings to everything.
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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    50 000 dead in less than a mile is a very sobering thought. Ours is such an interesting and fascinating hobby but it it is born out of tragedy.

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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    Back in the car and after trying unsuccessfully to scrape off as much mud as possible I headed on towards the town of Albert. Along the way I passed the French cemetary. There are 3,175 French soldiers buried or commemorated in the cemetery. There is also the grave of one Commonwealth casualty, that of a Chinese Labour Corps man, Wing Yuk Shan. He died on 5th December 1918.
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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    On the road again towards Thiepval I passed Pozieres British Cemetary. I couldn't stop long as the light was against me but I did stop and take a bit of time to wander through the rows of graves standing silently in the weak, late afternoon sun.
    There are 2,758 Commonwealth servicemen buried here and one German, 1,380 are unidentified. The names of a further 14,654 are listed on the walls surrounding the Memorial. A truly humbling place.
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    Default Re: My visit to Northern France, WW1 sites and a mad dash around Europe in a day including Malmedy!

    I finally reached Thiepval with just enough daylight left so headed towards this most impressive memorial. It can be seen from several miles away, dominating the landscape as it emerges from the woods surrounding it. It is the largest British battle memorial in the world and built on the site of the German held ridge over which so many died. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who also designed the Cenotaph in London.
    There is also a cemetary containing the bodies of 300 French and 300 British soldiers overlooking the Somme battlefield.
    The memorial is to the British and Commonwealth missing of the battles of the Somme - just the Somme - throughout the First World war. 72,191 names are here. You really have to stop and think about it, the numbers are so staggering. 72,191 names of people who are missing? How can you quantify such a large number? How can anyone begin to take on board how many people this represents?
    I left this place feeling very awed and incredibly humble.
    As I drove away from the site, I looked around and desperately tried to imagine how and why so many lives were lost for this quite unremarkable piece of ground.

    I couldn't find an answer.
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