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“… I fear’d to set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek” - Anselm in northern France

“… I fear’d to set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek” - Anselm in northern France

Old Nov 27th, 2007, 01:54 PM
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Anselm,
What a fascinating report. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.
Judy
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 02:32 PM
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Truly remarkable report. Thanks.
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 03:11 PM
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Anselm: Let me add my e-voice to the chorus of praise for your latest trip report.

When we met in Ottawa and you outlined your travel plans, I could not have imagined how rich a harvest you would extract from WW I battlefields.

Since then I have been reading the latest bio of Edith Wharton, whose charitable work in wartime Paris and whose visits to the Front are extensively captured by author Hermione Lee.

WW II seems a picnic compared to the relentless carnage of WW I. (Not seeking a dispute here about which was worse....) The monthly losses defy belief and one wonders how -- and why -- the 2 sides carried on.

Delightful too to see the large number of Cdn posters here: WW I means much more to us, I feel, than to Americans, who joined so much later.

BTW: We are heading back to France in March and I may contact you separately for advice -- we are staying in the r. du Faubourg St Antoine, a stomping grounds of ours from 15 years ago but an area that has surely changed a lot since then...
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 03:57 PM
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Thanks to all for your remarks. I'm truly touched.

Gertie, only some of the windows in the cathedral in Reims are by Chagall. If you go, look at the extreme east end, behind the chancel (the aspidal chapel, in church terms). They are unmistakably Chagall. Beautiful blues.

chartley, your comment about the "desire of the present generation to live in peace with their neighbours": there is a remarkable photograph of François Mitterand and Helmut Kohl standing hand in hand at the Ossuaire de Douaumont in the early 80s. A cynic would say they both looked uncomfortable, but I found it very powerful.

maitiatom, I'm working on those lyrics ...

Nukesafe, you spoke about stirring your imagination. Thank you for saying that.

annhig, that was my first encounter with Rully and I hope it wasn't my last.

tedgale, it's always a pleasure to hear from you. Regards to you both. I will stroll down rue du Faubourg St Antoine at Christmas and let you know what it feels like.

Anselm
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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 06:03 PM
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Just a link to a chart detailing the appaling casualties of WWI. http://europeanhistory.about.com/lib...w1castable.htm
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Old Nov 28th, 2007, 04:23 AM
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Anselm, thanks for this fine report. We made a short but memorable pilgrimage to the Somme and Ypres this year, so your report is most timely.

The image of the Eddie Bauer card scraping the windshield is priceless....
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 05:53 AM
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Anselm - Although I knew you had posted your report, I waited until I could wallow in the whole thing. I wasn't disappointed.

It must be conflicting to be on holiday in an area that has so many ghosts. Can you ever really forget the past while you are there? Maybe such a sober reminder is necessary occasionally.

I recall the shock of visiting the Canadian cemetery in Holland and looking at the ages on the markers - mostly 18 to 22 yearolds sent to their deaths by an older generation.

"the pleasures of the French table are more than the appearance, taste, and scent of the food."
Exactly! Unless you linger over a meal in a wonderful French restaurant, you are missing this whole experience.

Well written Anselm. I know you have spent considerable time preparing and polishing this report and it shows. Thank you.

Did I miss a link to your pictures?
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 06:59 AM
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Wow!

I would tell you how impressed I am with your eloquence... but someone did that.

I would tell you I loved the details... but someone did that.

I would tell you how much I learned from your report... but someone did that.

I will echo all the sentiments that others have posted.

As a 40yo American, I know more than the average (!) about WWII (my father faught), but frighteningly little about WWI. It truly is the forgotten war. You've spurned my interest.

Thanks for waking my brain up on this weekend morning.
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 09:06 AM
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Anselm, beautifully narrated. A poignant reminder of "...man's inhumanity to man".

My wife's father served in the US Army in WWI in France. He would have been 111 years old this year. Only two French veterans left--both would have to be over 100.

Jinx Hoover
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 09:18 AM
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To Surfmom, I can say that, in Britain at least, the First World War still looms larger in our minds than does the Second. The Second is seen as very much a "just war", while the First was wholly avoidable and pointless. The number of combatants killed in the First was much larger, and their memorials are in every town and village in Europe. Some of the smallest villages in Britain are known as "blessed" because nobody from them was killed.

The First also had a greater effect due to the number of wounded, and the number of widows. The consequences of the armistice of the First was depression, unemployment, and another war, while the Second was followed, in the west at least, by a determination to establish a better, more peaceful, world.

I have not been to Verdun yet, but I know how awful it is to see Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Thiepval and Tyne Cot. The dead in their hundreds of thousands to secure small pieces of muddy ground.
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 09:52 AM
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Fra_Diavolo, thanks for linking to that chart. The numbers are astounding, and as robjame pointed out in his post, soldiers were typically very young.

Sue, the Eddie Bauer card: for a moment I thought I’d be really Canadian and use my MEC card, but it isn’t as sturdy as the Eddie Bauer one.

robjame, about the conflict of being on vacation and then confronting something as unsettling as a Great War battlefield: when I got back I told Margriet that the trip seemed like a lot of hard work, and I meant that in an emotional rather than a physical way.

The photos: no, you didn’t miss the link. I wasn’t happy with any of them, so I thought I’d sneak through a trip report without pictures. I’ll look at them again and see if any are worth showing. If I do, I’ll come back here with a link to PBase.

“The pleasures of the French table …” I wrote that for you, robjame. I knew you’d love it.

surfmom, Jinx, and charltey, thanks for the comments. As a Canadian, we tend to have a greater awareness of the western end of the Western Front, the area where so many of the Commonwealth soldiers fought. However, with my interest in France I shifted my focus to their end (essentially from the Somme east to Switzerland). I knew very little of the American involvement until I started to read about Verdun and the later months of the war. How unexpected it was, then, to find that one of the most moving places I encountered was the American cemetery at Meuse-Argonne.
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Another chilling chart (I confess that I didn't hunt it up to give the link) is the one concerning the birthrate in Europe during and for 10 years after the war.
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 10:05 AM
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“Mort pour la France.” Terrible and haunting.

How evocative your report is, Anselm, although indeed that makes for some (entirely appropriate) unpleasant reading. Thank you for this: careful, elegant writing, impressive organization, excellent practical information. You <i>do</i> like duck, don't you?

Looking forward to your next trip and report.

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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 11:59 AM
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Thanks for this amazing and evocative report, Anselm.

BTW, silures are catfish. In the Dordogne they grow to be absolutely enormous. Maybe they do everywhere, but the ones in the Dordogne are definitely grotesque!
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 07:39 AM
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I have a feeling that it's bad form to top one's own report, but I did say that I would post a link to some photos if I ever got round to putting them up on PBase.

I wasn't very happy with the light. Days are short in October and there was often mist about, but these will give you some idea of what the places look like today. Just click on the &quot;Verdun and Chemin des Dames&quot; gallery:

www.pbase.com/anselmadorne

AA

PS ... Leely, I <i>do</i> like duck, lol.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 07:54 AM
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Thank goodness you did top it, AA. I missed it earlier and it is a magnificent read. Thank you so much for posting.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 09:43 AM
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The photos are perfect, AA. It would be hard for them to be any better.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 10:22 AM
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Thank you Anselm for topping this wonderful report for those of us who missed it the first time around.
It brought back memories of our trip in Northern France as a bonus.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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Very evocative photos. Thanks again.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 02:21 PM
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This was first posted while we were in France and I misse dit. So glad someone has topped it. We've made 6 trips to various WI battlefields and I'm always glad to see more reports. It really is too bad that most posters here ignore them. They are so much more interesting than WWII
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