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Visiting the WWI graves/trenches in Northern France with children

(19 Posts)
tb Sat 28-Sep-13 16:25:00

My uncle's father was in WWI and remained in France after 1918. My uncle lives at Warloy Baillon, and their village cemetery is half 'civilian' and half military.

Albert would be a good base, as would Amiens. It's not too far from a museum with trenches, and there are also tunnels where the German army established depots and where people lived. There is also the monument to soldiers whose bodies have never been found at Thiepval with a very striking monument with all the names marked on it - and every so often there is a blank space which means a body has been found and identified.

Weird, I live about an hour from Oradour sur Glane, have read books about it - in both English and French, but can't quite bring myself to go to it. I can remember a big article about it in the 1970s in the Sunday Times, but the thought that all the village were machine-gunned just makes it too difficult, somehow. At the same time, it doesn't stop me going to Tulle, where they strung up 100 people in reprisals for resistance activity.

cathpip Wed 25-Sep-13 18:56:26

My mum and dad took us every year from when we were about 8, mum was a history teacher and they were both very interested in both the wars. We never did anything organised as mum felt it was too much but just allowed us to wander and look and read things ourselves and if we had any questions they could answer them for us. We visited all the beaches, Ypres for the Menin Gate which in its own right brings a tear to your eyes, a place called Sanctuary Wood, where you can walk in the trenches and a place called Oradour Sur Glane (think that's spelt right?). We did not do all of this in one holiday, my parents used to incorporate it into a 2 week summer holiday and one year we would do the beaches and Ypres the next year Sanctuary Wood and Oradour.

imip Wed 25-Sep-13 18:51:57

This year we visited two different parts of Normandy in two different camping holidays at Yelloh villages. We were interested in visiting ww2 sites, but with a 6, 5, 3 and 1 year old, we did have to take it slow. Really looking into dday landings and we are Australian, so visited the sites where Australian troops played a prominent role. The balance was tricky, but along the coast there was a lot of dday history to be had while also at the beach. Made it a lot easier for us. I know you were looking more at ww1 history, but we found it easy to go to a beach, explore the history. Not a perfect way to do the tour, but it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. There were professional tours you could do as well. Half a day tours, which may be something you could explore. Half a day tour and then swimming pool? I think the ages are fantastic to begin discovering this period of history. I hope you have a wonderful time.

BackforGood Wed 25-Sep-13 18:35:44

Glad to know I'm not the only one whose eyes read quicker than they can absorb all the words grin

Theas18 Wed 25-Sep-13 10:36:05

OOpsy teach me to read things properly. Sorry

BackforGood Tue 24-Sep-13 22:04:01

er - I said it is easy to find places, not that it wasn't ....confused... we just found stuff when we were in the country, from tourist information places.

Theas18 Tue 24-Sep-13 16:25:55

Re backforgood and " not easy to find places and information", it's all on 'tinternet so do your homework ( or get the kids to!) first.

BackforGood Tue 24-Sep-13 15:54:46

When we stayed in Normandy, ours were just 11, 8 and 5. We visited quite a few sites, and they still remember things now (6 yrs on). It had a real impact, but not in a scary way. However, what I came on to say is that it's really easy to find places, and information for visitors, so it would probably be fine for you to find somewhere to stay and 'do it yourself' without needing to be on a tour which would quite possibly be aimed at older folk and not be great for your teens.

mummymeister Tue 24-Sep-13 15:34:57

5foot5 - the last post was moving but I wouldn't want to take my children on holiday to do this. I just found it so sad when you realise that all those names have faces and families. if your kids are really in to their history then a day spent doing stuff is fine but a 4 day tour would be all to much for mine.

5Foot5 Mon 23-Sep-13 22:22:52

the grimest day I ever spent was in Ypres

I was at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres about a month ago and it was very moving. The Flanders Field Museum is also there and, although we didn't have time to visit it, I have been told it is very good indeed.

Theas18 Mon 23-Sep-13 14:11:46

Do the model trenches as well as a cemetry or 2. Find your relatives. DS did this for my mum when he went. Brought it startlingly alive for us all.

I think 10 and 14 is old enough. After all the 14yr old might have been foolish/patriotic enough to enlist or at least try to.

For me... sniffle.... the photo of DS mate ( he would have been 15) wearing the " dress you up" trench uniform really hit home. THat's exactly how it would have been, just boys sad

Wordsmith Mon 23-Sep-13 14:01:07

I would only be thinking about a 3 or 4 day tour with a couple of days visiting the graves/monuments. It's more or less what the school trip DS1 had been offered will consist of. We could set something up ourselves but with these sorts of trips I think you get more out of it if they have a guide/plan etc.

Crutchlow35 Sun 22-Sep-13 08:21:30

I have to agree with the above post. While I believe children need to understand I think an organised tour could be too much. I think a couple of days of visits is enough. An organised tour would be too much for children that age as it would be very full on.

I went when I was 16 with school and I think that was a good age to understand plus we studied it in class. 10 years old, IMO is a bit young for such an organised trip.

mummymeister Fri 20-Sep-13 19:58:36

the grimest day I ever spent was in Ypres. just so overwhelming. not sure I would want to take any of my kids until they are much older and could handle the emotion of it all. would think it ok for one day or one visit but not a whole holiday tbh.

Wordsmith Fri 20-Sep-13 13:08:09

Jaynebxl DS1 has the opportunity to go on a school trip there next yr which sounds amazing, for £350, which we would happily pay for as I think it is so important for kids to understand, but he is ummng and ahing as he won't go if his friends don't (typical 13 yr old boy), and it is highly likely to be oversubscribed. So if he doesn't, I would like to go as a family because I have never been and always wanted to.

Wordsmith Fri 20-Sep-13 13:05:21

I had heard about the poppies. Good idea.
My Grandad fought in WW1 and his brother's grave is over there, so I would go and visit that.
I just want to organise it in the most effective (and cost-effective smile) way.

Jaynebxl Fri 20-Sep-13 13:03:50

I did a school trip like this when I was 10 and still have great memories from it. It was a really powerful trip. Can't advise really as I was too young but I think it is a great idea.

quoteunquote Fri 20-Sep-13 12:57:31

Take lots of red poppy seeds with you, as there is a campaign to plant lots of red poppies next year, then you can spread them as you go, poppy seeds can lie on the soil for years and never germinate, they like a bit of disturbed soil, which is why the bombs went off, a few weeks later there would be poppies.

I would do some family history before you go, and find out who in your family went, and which areas they were in,

I would break it up a bit, do your own tour, so you can break off and do something else, but book talks at each place if possible.

Wordsmith Fri 20-Sep-13 12:48:38

We have 2 DSs who will be 10 and 14 next Spring. We'd really like to take them to the WW1 sites in Northern France on an organised tour and was wondering if anyone had any tips of tour companies to use which were family-orientated? All I have come across on the net are sites for school trips or aimed at veterans/relatives. I think an organised trip would be better as we will learn more, but happy for any suggestions on DIY trips. Thanks!

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