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Maurice Greer’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 28 Jun 2009

Location: Amneville/Verdun, France

MapWe drove out towards Verdun to visit the war memorials and cemeteries from the 1st and 2nd world wars.
On the edge of Verdun we stopped to visit one of the cemeteries of the French soldiers – so many grave markers representing such a great loss.
Then we went to Ossuaire de Douaumont and visited the rocket shaped monument overlooking another huge cemetery of French soldiers. Nearby is the former location of the village of Fleury-Devant-Douaumont which was totally destroyed during a battle in 1916. The land around here is scarred with shell holes, remains of trenches and fortifications. The battle of Verdun lasted for 300 days, killing or wounding 378,777 French soldiers and around 330,000 German soldiers. Civilian deaths and injuries are not mentioned in these totals. The Fort de Douaumont, high on a nearby hill, has the remains of observation and gun towers just showing above the surface, some scarred by bullets.
About 20 km further we visited the “Montfaucon” American monument, a 200 foot tower with a figure symbol of liberty on top, to commemorate the victory of the US First army offensive 26 September to 11th November 1918, and pays tribute to the heroic service of the French armies.
Another 6 km along, we visited the American cemetery containing graves and memorials to 14,246 American soldiers that died here. A memorial chapel overlooks the cemetery and we heard the “Last Post” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” played while we were here.
We drove back and stopped in the city of Verdun where we had dinner at a sidewalk restaurant along the river. On leaving, as we walked along the river, a man jumped or fell from a bridge into the river. Another man fishing nearby ran to rescue him and pulled him out on to the bank. By the time we had walked up to the bridge the police and paramedics had arrived and were working on him. After about 15 minutes, they took him away in an ambulance but it didn’t look good as he was motionless on the stretcher and there was no effort to revive him.