Monday, August 17
By luck we were coming out of the toilet when a bus pulled up outside. It took people on tours of the battlefield sites, dropping off and collecting at hourly intervals. Hasty dash back to Myrtle to change and on the bus.
First stop was the Ossuarie de Douaimont, and this would prove to be the most moving site of the whole day.
This is where their are 130,000 French soldiers buried along with an unknown number of French and Getman soldiers who could not be identified from their remains. They are entombed under the Ossuairy with windows the length of the building for all to see. Very mind numbing. The building is in the representational shape of a sword driven into the ground to the hilt to symbolize peace.
Second stop was the Fort de Vaux, where the French with held the German advance nearly three months before being over run, with horrendous casualties on both sides. It did not last long as the French re took it and held it until the Armistice.
Third stop was at Fort de Douaumont, which was much larger than the first one. It was totally underground as well with the guns on hydraulic lifts which raised them for firing and then lowered them for protection. This fort, as was the first, was stormed by the Germans, but unfortunately for them, their arsenal exploded killing 68 soldiers. Not long after that the French retook the fort.
Next stop was the village of Fleury, or should I say the small chapel, which is all that is left of the town after the Germans shelled it. All that remains are craters and monuments where people lost their lives.
Last stop was the Tranchee des Baionnettes. This is a 150 metre long covered trench that holds the bodies of 137 French soldiers. Due to the number and decimation, it was decided to fill in the trench and make it a memorial site. The chilling factor is that no one really knows how many are still out there on the battlefields. Very similar to Gallipoli.
One has to visit these sites to really appreciate the devastation that was wrought on not only the people but the landscape also.
Back to Myrtle after a very thought provoking day.
Tuesday, August 18
Had a quiet day today. Spent most of the day giving Myrtle a clean inside and out. Collect Dom and Denise D’Augello in Reims tomorrow.