WWI European battlefields


#1

As we slowly creep towards 2014 (100 years of WWI start), I am more seriously thinking of flying to the other side of the Pond to visit some of the battlefields Vince keeps on mentioning. Luckily most of the stationary action was in Western Europe. May someone express their opinion on which battlefields are the best? I may have to take my twins with me, so a presence of good accommodations/food would be appreciated. Thanks.
P.S. Hope there is a lot of ammo on display


#2

As an American you wouldn’t be interested in a lot of the places I would go to. I am lucky because I have all the WW1 battlefields plus Waterloo and Agincourt, Crecy etc As well as all the WW2 places

What I would suggest you should look at would be the Normandy Beaches and the Ardennes Forest (Battle of the Bulge) of WW2.There are plenty of museums but they are not big on ammo. You could do it on your own but it wouldn’t be a good idea because you wouldn’t find the best places to see just by chance, and you would waste a lot of time searching. Time is the big problem, you think of N. W. Europe as being small but the distances are still enough to cause problems getting around .

its really easy for me, I could almost do a lot of these sites as a day trip from London, if I started out really early and got back really late. I wouldn’t have much time on the ground but it is possible. I have just booked plane tickets to go to Auschwitz, $50 return to/from Krakow on a budget airline.

An organised tour would be much better, with a guide. The various Vet Assns organise them and a few years back these places were just crawling with returning Vets and their families but their age has probably limited their numbers now. There is a big hotel on the main road just south of St Mere Eglise (where the 101st landed) that appeared to only ever cater for American coach parties. American flag flying out the front and everything.

Whatever else you do you have to see this place. This is beyond anything you have ever seen in your life.
abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/no.php

You could come to Britain and I can recommend some tours but they won’t take you to the American places of interest, thats the problem.

The American WW1 battlefields are too far to the south and there is not much to see when you get there. I went there with my late friend Jim who came over to visit them because his father had been there. If you don’t have that family connection its not worth going although it is near Verdun and that is very good.

Perhaps there would be enough interest to make up an informal group from the IAA to travel togeather. I find it really moving to see these places but don’t expect a lot of unusual ammo, what there is is pretty run of the mill stuff . The other problem is if you were to bring your twins the prices on transatlantic flights goes up dramatically during the summer. As soon as schools out they nearly double and if you travel the first or the last week you will be shocked at the number of really young children flying unaccompanied.


#3

My Wife and I and at least one of my daughters will be travelling to France for the June '14 anniversary. Three of our Four respective Grandfathers fought on the Western Front with the ANZACs between 1916 and 1918, so we also plan to ‘walk in their footsteps’. There are a number of professional operators that organise tours for a range of budgets and time frames. Would be keen to hear from any other members that may be in the vicinity.
Peter.


#4

Put Belgium on the list. And especially the area around Ypres, Paschendaele and some other notorious WW1 fighting spots.


#5

Is that going to be of much interest for Vlad who hasn’t got a connection? Its great for me but I go there because my Grandfather was there, the Cloth Hall museum is good but the fields where the fighting took place have all been restored back to lawn like perfection and there’s not much to see and its hard to visualise how it was.
Bastoigne is not far away from Ypres and Vlad can download Battle of the Bulge and Band of Brothers before he goes making it much easier for his sons to relate to. They have a Sherman Tank in Bastoigne town square so no contest! I had my photo taken on it fifty years ago. Fifty years! OMG thats scary


#6

Actually, Vince, I have a deep and highly personal connection to Belgium, without ever being there. My relatives who lived in Liege, came to Moscow several times a year, so I grew up with toys they brought, looking at Paris Match and listening about King Baudouin. Also, my great grandfather (my grandmother was born in Paris) fought in Légion Étrangère, I have a photo of him in WWI uniform.
Vince, I am a naturalized American, I came to the States at the age of 20, a good chunk of me is still back there.


#7

Don’t forget Italy…austrian and italian trenches have been restored and attract a large number of tourists every year.


#8

Ah, I forgot, there are some very very interesting museums too. The museum in Trentino also displays several extremely rare weapons and ammunitions. About food, well, that’s Italy, and not far from where I live


#9

Don`t forget to visit Holland.
Go to the museum in Overloon you will see one of the biggest ammo collections on display.

451kr.


#10

[quote=“451kr”]Don`t forget to visit Holland.
Go to the museum in Overloon you will see one of the biggest ammo collections on display.

451kr.[/quote]

Thats a good museum! thanks for that. I’m definitely going to add that to my list

youtube.com/watch?v=VL1PiBzk3hI


#11

What about Verdun!!! Very interesting place to visit, lots of forts or bunkers to visit. If you are loocking for nice hotels, go into town. For cheaper places, look on internet for bed and breakfast. It is always better to make an early reservation. If you need more infos, let me know


#12

Verdun is very good and the main museum is impressive. Plenty of ammo on display but its not ammo that is the main focus so its just incidental and rather ordinary. Its not worth the drive if its ammo you are after but the atmosphere of the place is worth taking in.

The forests are very evocative, deep, dark and spooky but totally silent, there are about six square miles of forest that cover the original battleground. Complete with abandoned villages. After the war the ground was so damaged that the fir trees were planted to try and heal it. Today its a National Monument so you can’t take anything away or dig although there are still fired cases and bits lying on the surface. You would be crazy to dig because the ground must be littered with unexploded shells and grenades.

However, deep in the woods, despite being illegal, people still do dig. There is a thriving black market in souvenirs. In the woods the ground can still be seen all humps and bumps from the shelling.

youtube.com/watch?v=UxR4Fgs0iB0

Can you imagine what is still under that ground? Thats not faked or ‘reconstructed’ for the tourists. Thats real, its been left just as they walked off the battlefield in 1918. nothing has been touched.

Really you need a guide to show you around

One of the weirdest places I have ever been to is the Ossuary. Its a cathederal like building built on (I think) the highest point of the battlefield after the war. It contains over a thousand tons of human bones picked up from the battlefield that they didn’t know what to do with.

ww1battlefields.co.uk/verdun/verdcent.html

Nobody can fail to be shocked by seeing it