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Adopted by the Ardennes
An Escapade in history
From the 3 great wars to the construction of Europe
5 mins OF ESCAPE
On this beautiful autumn afternoon, I'm off on my own, for once, to visit the Guerre et Paix (war and peace) Museum at Novion-Porcien in the Crêtes Préardennaises region.
The modern building is half underground and you have no idea of its size until you enter the atrium where you're instantly captivated by some enormous photos. I try to imagine the story of that man in tears. Are they tears of relief when, after years of occupation, the Germans finally leave his beloved Ardennes?
A whole century of history, to fully understand
The tour follows a chronological path from 1854 until the end of the second world war. The museum reveals nearly 100 years of the history of the Ardennes. Sedan and the surrender of Napoleon III, the Last Cartridge, the WWI soldiers in their trenches and, finally, the 1945 Liberation.
It's all there, a chance to fill in the gaps in my history knowledge. The decor is understated and the story unfolds in the simplest of manners: key facts of each conflict, with their international and domestic contexts as well as the local situation in the Ardennes.
But besides the war stories behind the uniforms and machines (around fifty vehicles and craft for reconnaissance operations, transportation of troops and equipment, auxiliary services and civilian vehicles... the pride of the museum, impressive indeed!) I also learn about the life of both civilians and soldiers, the humans at the heart of the massacres.
In History, it's always the little stories that I like best
I linger in front of a display cabinet full of toys and items from everyday life. Whether they were French, German, the occupied or the enemy, they all had the same needs, especially the need for entertainment and laughter.
We can only identify with them, say to ourselves "it could have been us!"
As a woman, I feel great respect for the wives who, during the occupation, were subjected to forced labour, humiliation and violence.
Imagine a mother with ration vouchers trying to feed her family for a fortnight with 250 grammes of meat and 250 grammes of lard per inhabitant... And German women experienced the same hardships as the French.
Emotion finally overcomes me when I think of those mothers who constantly had to answer the question "Where's Dad?"... Dad will be a hero...
The irony of a WWI soldier kissing his wife on the battle front
(Extract from a postcard)
The Great War in the Ardennes
In this centenary year, I'm particularly interested in the WWI exhibition. What's different about the Ardennes region is that it was totally occupied from the First World War. So what was life like for the Ardennes people when Charleville was known as "Berlin-on-the-Meuse"? What did they think of the occupiers? Who was the famous Augustin Trébuchon? There's a film about him, the chance for a welcome break to sit on a bench and watch it.
After this visit, I'm even more keen to find out about the remembrance sites that are dotted all over the department and beyond! I download the app “Les Ardennes, Terre de Mémoire” and plan my next visits. 1st step: Sedan!
Finally, I stop off to see Woinic and purchase a souvenir, the wild boar's furry effigy, before leaving for Charleville-Mézières.