Back on the Western Front – with students

Day one is in the bag and it was a big one. After a few initial hiccups (tardy arrivals, issues with check-in, and one encounter with a sniffer dog) our trip across the water went well. Delta got us to Paris a half hour early, immigration was a breeze, and the car rental pretty uncomplicated. Operating the navigation system on our Opel Zafira was another story. But we got there in the end.

            The drive north to Peronne on the A1 was simple and relatively quick. We arrived at the Historial de la Grande Guerre by 11:30. Very solid museum. It’s organized chronologically and presents a nice mixture of art, ephemera, and artifacts from the combatant nations and their colonies.   From a historian’s point of view it might have been a little light on chronological specificity, but from the public’s point of view the curatorial focus on the experience of the war is one of the Historial’s great strengths. Highly recommended.  

            After a quick lunch we drove west to Dantzig Alley Cemetery (check the registry – we were there) for a quick primer on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and a chance to orient ourselves within the Somme battle area. [By this point heads were nodding on even the shortest trip in the car but spirits remained pretty high.] Then we made a quick visit to the Welsh Memorial overlooking Mametz Wood – and a minor detour into Death Valley (I’m sure there will be pictures) before heading up to Contalmaison and from there to Pozieres and Butterworth Farm, our base for the next few days.   It’s a lovely barn conversion Gite with wonderfully warm and welcoming proprietors Bernard and Marie.

            Once we’d settled in the students divided into nappers and explorers – I sympathized with both groups. The latter saw much evidence of the Iron Harvest in a short walk around the farm. We piled into the cars once more for a trip to the Intermarché (supplies for tomorrow) then finished our big day with dinner at a local restaurant – the Poppy, where the staff were most accommodating and the food rather delish.

            I’d say more, but I was asleep twenty minutes later. And I’m pretty sure I was the last one.  

About cahagerman

Dad, husband, writer, historian, recovering academic, and the Consulting Professor.
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