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Olham

"Somme" - Today's photographs of Mametz area

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Just found these pics, when I searched for maps and othere reference.

This may have been shown here before - but for all who missed it.

It looks so peaceful there today - sleepy villages, gentle countryside - that it's hard to imagine

the hell that it was in the Great War.

 

http://www.1914-1918.net/photo_somme.htm

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You don't have to dig deep to find the ugly remains of the war from the ground. Each year, after all these decades, plenty of shells and other ammunition is found from the former frontline areas. Some of the explosives are still dangerous and unexploded.

 

Around Verdun, there are villages that were completely destroyed in the extremely heavy fighting that took place there in 1916. Nobody lives in those villages anymore. They ceased to exist in 1916. I've never been to that part of France, but I imagine a visit to Verdun would be a spooky experience, especially for people who know about the history of the war.

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If you can track down Herbert Malloy Mason's book about the Escadrille Layfayette,..Amazon Books listing, he talks about visiting the Verdun area, especially around Duamont and the other heavily shelled fortified areas. This book was written in the mid 60's and even then nature was trying to reclaim the old churned up ground. He did some extensive helicopter over flights and remarked about the damage to some of the areas, that would take scores of years to reclaim. In contrast the Western Somme area had it bit easier, as the Discovery channel's show on the last flight of Baron Von Richthofen illustrated.

 

The 1918 late spring German Somme offensive, did get stalled because the they could not sustain the supply lines. That the German troops stopped long enough to feed themselves from the bounty of the Somme valley is what probably what saved it from worse carnage.

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Great photos. I really must do a trip to Verdun or some other important WW1 battleground before I become too old and incapacitated. Maybe a tour or something. Looking at photos is never the same as seeing things with your own eyes.

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Yes it's a bit of a dream of mine, to do a small motorbike tour of the front, from the channel to the Swiss border.

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"The Devons held this trench; the Devons hold it still"

Thanks Olham.

 

I think it was my last trip, I was making my way up the line from the Vosges, by car on this occasion. I had been in at Verdun, then poked around the Soissons and St Mihiel sections of the front. You always know when you come in from the campagne and are at the Front, and it is not because the architecture is different, or any of those other subtle hints. You truly can feel it. My navigator had out the big Michelin road atlas, but I could sense we were at the lines, and all of a sudden, as we bottomed out in a little valley, there it was. We got out, entered the gates of the tiny cemetery, and all was truly peaceful - it was sunny and warm, birds were singing, but it was quiet.

And you could feel their presence. And there they were, all lined up in a row, and I saw that inscription. It truly does make your hair stand up. You are not alone.

 

shredward

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I think it was my last trip, I was making my way up the line from the Vosges, by car on this occasion. I had been in at Verdun, then poked around the Soissons and St Mihiel sections of the front. You always know when you come in from the campagne and are at the Front, and it is not because the architecture is different, or any of those other subtle hints. You truly can feel it. My navigator had out the big Michelin road atlas, but I could sense we were at the lines, and all of a sudden, as we bottomed out in a little valley, there it was. We got out, entered the gates of the tiny cemetery, and all was truly peaceful - it was sunny and warm, birds were singing, but it was quiet.

And you could feel their presence. And there they were, all lined up in a row, and I saw that inscription. It truly does make your hair stand up. You are not alone.

 

shredward

 

Wow, well put as always Shred.

 

I need to go visit these places in person. Thankfully, in my future line of work I will be able to. Perhaps a "research" trip to the Flanders region is in order in a few years. I already have Munich on my "to visit" list for work.

 

@Olham, have you visited these battlefields in person? If so, what's your take on them?

 

@Shred: I know what you mean by "you are not alone." I had a very similar experience at the Gettysburg battlefield. I have no idea why - I haven't traced by family history back far enough to know about the Civil War, so I have no direct ties, but there is such a strong feeling, an emotion that creeps up on you as you visit and grows more and more the longer you stay. By the end of the afternoon at Gettysburg, my family and I (I was only 14 at the time) felt ready to leave - that a weight had been placed on us that we didn't feel at the start of the day. There is something to it... and I don't easily buy ghost stories either.

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Now you made my hair stand up too, Shred.

 

CaptSopwith, I have only been to the Normandy coast line bunkers from WW2 yet.

There, you may get similar feelings as Shredward describes.

I stood in a big bunker with a wide machine gun hole and looked out on the Channel.

The smell of human piss in there was quite irritating, but I stood there for some time,

imagining the British armada slowly materialising from out of the horizonal haze.

And all the time I had this ghostly feeling, that a very young soldier with a field grey

helmet was standing left of me in the dark shadow, pointing out at the horizon,

with a pale face in terror.

 

It may only happen to the sensitive, don't know.

I want to go to some of the airfield sites I know the locations of, like Roucourt and Toulis.

Perhaps even this summer (although my life plans tend to get thrown over by reality).

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It's wonderful how Nature can take back what was destroyed...and cover up the Horror and sadness of a hell on earth...and make it beautiful again

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.

 

I must return to Europe again soon. It's been far too long, and threads such as this only make me realize just how badly I want to get back.

 

.

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.

 

I must return to Europe again soon. It's been far too long, and threads such as this only make me realize just how badly I want to get back.

 

.

 

There are plenty of places to stay, and friends to meet Lou...you are always MOST welcome my friend

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.

 

Many thanks WM, you are one of the folks I'd truly like to meet when I ever get back across the pond.

 

.

 

Likewise :drinks:

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Lou, I never have much money, but if you should travel around France by rented car,

and you go to travel alone, then give me a note early on, if you want company - I'd be

glad to join in. If you should have an own tent, that would be funny - I have a small

1-man-tent for myself. We could spend the evenings at a camp fire, talking about the

Great War. (Well, in fact you would be talking, and I'd be listening - I hardly know

anything, and you know so much).

And if Widowmaker has an own tent, he might want to join us for the tour?

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.

 

Well that sounds like a wonderful plan Olham. I'll bring the marshmallows for toasting. But I sure as hell don't want to do all the talking! We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. :biggrin:

 

.

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Not sure about the marshmallows, Lou - the figure is "strongest" in the middle already. :grin:

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You can also see the frontline areas with Google Earth. I sometimes spend time trying to find old forts and things like that from the satellite photos. The Verdun area is particularly good for such searching.

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