The French Ardennes has more reason than most areas of France for marking the centenary of the ending of The Great War, in 2018.
Four years of commemorations in France – that have marked everything from the start of the conflict, in 1914, through to events remembering those who fell in the campaigns at The Somme and Passchendaele – will draw to a close at 11am on November 11, 2018.
And, for France, it is The French Ardennes that will be providing the full stop, at the end of the final sentence, in the last chapter of the history of the conflict. Because it was here, in The French Ardennes, where the last official French victim of The Great War, Augustin Joseph Trébuchon, fell – just fifteen minutes before the cease-fire at 11am on November 11, 1918.
Trébuchon is buried in the cemetery of Vrigne-Meuse, an Ardennes village of 220 inhabitants, where visitors today will find a church with 18 white crosses surrounding a memorial – in honour of the men of the 415th Infantry Regiment who all died on November 11 during the last offensive while attempting to cross the River Meuse.
Augustin Trébuchon – unmarried and childless, and mobilized on August 4, 1914 – had fought on all fronts and was wounded twice before being killed at 10:45am on November 11, 1918, less than fifteen minutes before his friend and solider-in-arms Delaluque had the honour of sounding his bugle to mark the ceasefire.
The unveiling of a new memorial is just one of the events planned for 2018, in The French Ardennes. Leading politicians have been invited to attend a special ceremony – with Trébuchon set to become a symbol of tragedy of The First World War.
Elsewhere within The French Ardennes, 2018 will also see the much-anticipated reopening of The War & Peace Museum.
Closed for refurbishment in 2008, its re-opening has been the subject of many setbacks and delays, but visitors will have another military attraction to see during a visit to this part of France following its reopening on January 23, 2018. Further details can now be found on its website: https://www.guerreetpaix.fr/en.
From France’s defeat at Sedan in 1870, to the end of the Second World War, The French Ardennes has stood at the crossroads of history – as well as in the very front line of conflict. And the Museum of War and Peace stands at the gateway to the sites and museums preserving the memory of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and the First and Second World Wars, in Novion-Porcien.
It commemorates, amongst other things, the “House of the Last Cartridge”, in Bazeilles – a village 8 km from Sedan – where commander Lambert’s group of seventy men stood up to 2,300 Prussians in September 1870.
World War I is depicted through the life of German and French troops in the trenches. The soldiers had left home with “flowers in their gun barrels”, but found themselves in a war in which men on both sides dug underground to protect themselves, giving rise to the figure of the French “Poilu” who suffered the rigors of the seasons, shortages and bloody attacks, which in the end led to mutiny.
Parts of the famous Maginot Line – a fortified underground system which was falsely proclaimed as being impenetrable – ran through The French Ardennes and while this will also be commemorated in the new-look Museum, English-speaking guided tours below ground along the Line, can be booked in advance at Fort of La Ferté (http://www.ouvragelaferte.fr).
Elsewhere, in the southern area of The French Ardennes, The Argonne will also be marking several major anniversaries from the final year of The First World War.
These include the story of American war hero Sergeant York who actions resulted in 132 German soldiers being taken prisoner, and whose story was turned into a 1941 Hollywood movie directed by Howard Hawks, with Gary Cooper in the role of Sergeant York (http://bit.ly/2ySIyXu); the death of pioneer aviator Roland Garros who was killed in a dog-fight over the Argonne on October 5, 2018, but whose name is kept alive to this day by the renowned Paris tennis stadium; and an exhibition about the liberation of the Argonne by the Americans in 1918 (http://bit.ly/2gKUxj8).
Away from the First World War commemorations, The French Ardennes will also have several other new experiences for its visitors in 2018, including a new audio-guide tour in the Charlemont Fortress, in Givet – and the chance to get around the town, and The Meuse Valley, by hiring a Vespa (http://bit.ly/2yU8PVn).
From the sublime to the ridiculous, the historic 15th century village of Mont Cornu in Montcornet will open to the public in March 2018; while the adrenalin-pumping Terr’Altitude Park in the Meuse Valley will launch a new experience alongside one of the longest zip wire rides in Europe that will “catapult” visitors over a 20 meters distance! There will also be a 2018 version of the region’s increasingly popular “Stay in a Castle” brochure.
Key dates on The French Ardennes calendar for 2018 include the Cabaret Vert music festival, in Charleville-Mézèries (August 23-26); the Gastronomic Brotherhood food festival, in Charleville-Mézèries (May 5/6); and the Medieval Festival in Sedan (May 26/27).
Further details about The French Ardennes, meanwhile, will be featured in the new, 2018 visitor guide to The French Ardennes, entitle Ardennes Inspirations which can be ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephoning +33 324 56 06 08. For further information, visit http://gb.ardennes.com.