Tuesday, January 13, 2009

December, 64 years ago

After hesitating a lot, I decided to tell you about one of my passions, i.e. modern history, precisely World War II. What is the link with Anglophone culture? Well I admit this terrible war was one of the first contact most European people had with Anglophone culture. The British, Irish, Canadian and American soldiers had close contact with the population and the people discovered many things they did not know (chewing gum and Coca-Cola for the most famous). For that reason I decided to go for a museum on the Battle of the Bulge, during which Canadian, British and American forces defended the area in which I now live.

First of all I think a brief history of the battle is needed. December 16, 1944 the German high command launches a massive assault at the place the attacked in 1940, the Belgian forests of the Ardennes. Counting on the bad weather (heavy snow and fog) to neutralize the Allied air supremacy, a huge number of tanks and infantry goes through the defence lines. It was without counting on the tenacity of the British, Canadian and American soldiers. The violent fights and the cold made it one most terrible battles of WWII. My area was freed a second time (the German troops invaded my village during the battle) by the English paratroopers, as the village in which I studied at secondary school, where they lost no less than 63 men. People in my area will always remember that sacrifice.

Now as far as the museum is concerned I decided not to go to Bastogne but to Laroche-en-Ardennes. The museum, simply called “Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes”, is quite big and represents well the troops present in the area (to my opinion Bastogne is more US-centred). We can see Canadian, American, Irish, Scottish, British and German soldiers. There is also a veteran room, picturing the history of some soldiers that survived and came back. The collection is simply great, with some very rare and curious objects. The only “flow” in the museum is the lack of a good translation of the notice boards. Some are in French only, others in English and a very little number in Dutch or German, a pity for such a good museum. However I would recommend it to those who want to remember that dark period of history.

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