In the foosteps of Wilfred Owen….Discover the biking and the hiking routes of sites and events of the Great War 1914-1918….
From the North Sea to the Chemin des Dames the Great War has left deep marks on the European Continent and the Northern France .These regions are home to the many sites that bear the scars of two world wars. The places commemorate the sacrifice of those who took part and now, thanks to the regional Remembrance Trails, you can discover them at your leisure along local biking and hiking routes…..
The forester’s house – Nov. 2014.
This house was dedicated to the famous English poet, Wilfred Owen, who spent his last days here and also wrote his last letter in it. Owen died in Ors on 4 November 1918.
Ors- the Forester’ s house -1919
The smoky cellar….
On the 31 Oct 1918 Wilfred wrote his last letter home.
My Dearest Mother, I am writing this in a smoky cellar… It’s a great life… Thereis no danger down here…Of this I am certain: you could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as those who surround me here.. (To Sassoon) Dearest Friend, Some poems to tempt you to a letter. And I’ll give you my mother’s address… I know you would try to see her – if I fail to see her again…
The dampness of the smoky cellar of the forest house can still felt.
The cellar – The cellar remains untouched and is accessed by a curved ramps alongside which runs the text of Owen’s last letter home to his mother.
November 2014 – In the footsteps of Wilfred Owen – the last way.
Anthem for doomed Youth
What passing bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons,
No mockeries for them from prayers and bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes,
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Sambre – Oise Canal before the Great War ( Canal de la Sambre à l’ Oise avant la Grande Guerre )
Sambre -Oise Canal – November 2014.
November 2014- Sambre-Oise Canal where Wilfred Owen died.
The last way – near the Canal.
Move him into the sun –
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds, –
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved – still warm – too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
– O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime …
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand pains that vision’s face
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause
“None,” said the other, “save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now…”
The Ors village – Northern France.
Ors Communal Cemetery – The final resting place of the great war poet Wilfred Owen.
The Canada National Vimy Memorial.
Canada’s most impressive tribute to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives in the First World War is the inspiring Canadian National Vimy Memorial, about 10 kilometres north of Arras.
The name of 11,285 Canadian soldiers are carved on the walls of the Vimy monument.
This memorial’s white pylons ans sculpted figures is a magnificent work of art designed by Canadian sculptor and architect, W.S. Allward.
The Pas-de-Calais coal basin.
« Modern Canada was born in the trenches of Vimy »
The South African Memorial-Longueval – Somme
In Longueval the South African Memorial and Museum pay tribute to the South African soldiers who experienced thier baptism of fire in Delville Wood. Of the 3,200 men who participated in the attack on 15 July 1916 only 143 returned unscathed five days later.
The Longueval Pipers Memorial
The Footballer’s memorial at Longueval.
Landscapes of the Battles of the Somme today….
« There’s some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England » – Rupert Brook, in the Soldier.
Souchez Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery – Artois – Near Arras.
Lochnagar Crater – Ovillers-La-Boisselle – Somme
This impressive mine crater, measuring 91 metres across and which is 21 metres deep, is the result of a series of explosions on 1 July 1916. The craters were created at 7.28 a.m. and the detonation of the mines marked the lanch of the Battle of the Somme by British troops.
Soupir – Chemin des Dames – Aisne
Cimitero Militare Italiano de Soupir – Chemin des Dames – Aisne.
The National Australian Memorial – Villers-Bretonneux – Somme
This white stone memorial, designed by the architect Sir Edwin Luytens, which is located in a Commonwealth cemetery, liste 11,000 names of the Australian Imperial Force, with no known grave or who were killed in France. This is where the Dawn Service is celebrated on Anzac Day every year on 25 April.
The Newfounland Memorial – Near Albert – Somme
The Newfounland Memorial – Near Albert – Somme
On a mound surrounded by rock and shrubs native to Newfoudland stands a great bronze caribou, the emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
At the base of the mound, three bronze tablets carry the names of 820 Newfoundlanders who gave their lives in the First Worls War and have no known grave.
In Beaumont-Hamel, the Newfoundland Memorial gives a moving and realistic impression of the battles waged here thanks to a beautiful preserved network of trenches.
On 1 July 1916 at 9 a.m.the troops of the Royal Newfounland Regiment suddendly found themselves under fire from German machine guns. Half an hour later only 68 men were still alive. In view of the number of soldiers involded, this attack is considered to be one of the deadliest battles of the Somme offensive.
The Franco-British Memorial – Thiepval – Somme.
This memorial was built between 1929 and 1932 and was designed by Edwin Lutyens, the greatest and most prolific British architect of his generation.
The 45-metre high tower is the largest British war memorial worldwide.
It commemorates the 72,205 men of the British and South African armies who died or went missing in the Somme between July 1915 and Mars 1918.
St-Quentin Canal – Ricqueval.
The Ulster Tower – Thiepval – Somme
The Ulster Tower, copy of Helen’s Tower in Clandeboyne, Ireland, wher the Ulster Division trained . The tower was built in 1921 thanks to public founds.
The Gothic troubadour style tower commemorates the soldiers of the Ulster battalions who fought here, in particular on 1 July 1916.
New Zealand Memorial -Longueval – Somme.
Longueval holds a special place in New’s Zealand’s military history during the First World War . It was near this place on Fridays 15 September 1916, that the New Zealand Division joined the Battle of Somme.
The Kiwis of Le Quesnoy
The Le Quesnoy New Zealand Memorial
On 4 November 1918, with Le Quesnoy occupied by a garrison of 1,500 German soldiers, New Zealand troops liberated the city by scaling the fortifications built by Vauban. The events are depicted in this bas-relief. You can see soldiers climbing the walls with ladders and a winged woman symbolising freedom pointing the palm of victory in their direction. The New Zealand Memorial pays tribute to the 400 wounded soldiers, 114 of whom died ; 65 of them are buried in the city’s cemetery. This liberation is still one of the highlights of New Zealand’s intervention in this First World War.
Chateau-Thierry American Monument- Aisne
The Ghosts Monument – Paul Landowski.
In Oulchy-le-château on Chalmont Hill to commemorate the Second Battle of the Marne.
« Reconcilation above the Graves »
Maison Blanche German Military Cemetery of Saint-Laurent Blangy
The largest German war cemetery in France, is the final resting place for 44,833 German soldiersof which 8,040 were never identified and buried in a common grave.
Memorial to Polish Volunteers
Czechoslovak Cemetery and Memorial – Near Arras – Artois
« For our freedom and yours »
Intent on fighting German and Austro-Hungarian rule in their native countries, Czechoslovak and Polish immigrants living in and around Paris at the outbreak of the war were quick to enrol in the French Army and take part in the Battle of Artois in May 1915. Standing opposite the memorial to the soldiers of the Nazdar Company which marks the entrance to the Czechoslovak Cemetery, the Polish Memeorial bears the motto « Za wolnosc nasza i wasza » which means ” For our freedom and yours”
Ending the War….
7/11/1918. 20H20… The German ministers with responsabilty for negotiating an armistice arrived at the French lines near La Capelle. The Pierre d’ Haudroy monument commemorates the cease-fire which preceded the armistice of 11 November 1918.
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