I’m a history buff, especially with World War I and II. Don’t ask me why. I’ve just always wanted to visit any museum or historical sighting/monument that could be connected to either I or II. I wrote an article about the WOII sightings yesterday, so today is all about those from WOI!
1. Franz Ferdinand’s assassination
The place where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo is an important location in World War I history. The killing of the Austro-Hungarian archduke and his wife by a Serbian nationalist is what caused Europe to explode into full-blown war. Seeking to punish Serbia, (as they thought they had ordered the assassination) the Austro-Hungarian Empire planned to attack with the help of Germany, its ally. The two countries knew that Russia would come to Serbia’s aid. Once Russia was involved, its allies, including France and Great Britain, would join the conflict. The Latin Bridge, where the assassination took place, still stands in Sarajevo. The house of the assassin, Gavrilo Princip, turned into a museum, but it was destroyed during the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s. There’s a plaque on the wall outside the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand Museum. The plaque is located at the place where Princip stood when he fired the shots into the archduke’s car.
2. Vimy Ridge
The Battle for Vimy Ridge was part of a larger Allied offensive known as the Battle of Arras. Arras would eventually help the Allies gain the upper hand in France. They used skillfully targeted artillery to cover the troops’ advance and were divided into smaller units, each with a specific task they had trained for. Through this, the Canadians were able to take the ridge. Despite being an important step for Allied forces, the Arras battlefields aren’t visited that much. Not like any of the other major battles of the war. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to see here in the Vimy Ridge area. The Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial can be seen for miles around. Some of the trenches on the ridge have been reinforced with cement and are still standing today. The battlefield also has shell craters.
3. Passchendaele Battlefield
The Battle of Passchendaele (usually spelled Passendale) was also called the Third Battle of Ypres because it was the third time in three years that Germany had squared off against the Allies in this part of Flanders, Belgium. The battle, during which Allied forces tried to remove the German army from the grounds near the city of Ypres, lasted for more than three months. And ended successful. The Menin Gate to the Missing, a large memorial that commemorates the more than 50,000 soldiers who went missing during the fighting (and were never found) is one of the many things to see. The gate includes a large open-air hall where the names of those missing are inscribed. Nearly 12,000 soldiers are buried at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is also near Passchendaele. The first burials took place in October 1917. The village of Passchendaele was destroyed during the battle, but it has been rebuilt. There’s also a Passchendaele Memorial 1917 Museum, which highlights a life-size replica of a dugout used by British soldiers during the battle.
The battle of Verdun lasted for almost the entirety of 1916. During the 303-day confrontation, German and French forces faced off in one of the deadliest battles of the war. No one is sure how many people were killed or wounded at Verdun in 1916, but it’s estimated that the total number of casualties was nearly 1 million. French forces were able to repel the German offensive, but neither side was able to gain a significant advantage in the war. Shell craters are still visible on the battlefield. Numerous memorials, including a building called the Ossuary that contains the remains of more than 100,000 soldiers, are scattered throughout the 39-square-mile land. You can explore fortresses such as Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux. They were built during a war with Prussia in the 19th century, already old when the Germans attacked them in 1916. The Verdun Memorial Museum features exhibits and artifacts that show what it was like in the trenches in 1916.
5. Somme Battlefield
Shorter, but more intense than the battle at Verdun, (taking place at the same time) the Battle of the Somme was fought by a combined army of Allied forces, attempting to break the German line. The Allies gained a total of six miles of ground during the fighting. One of Great Britain’s most famous figures, Winston Churchill, criticised the way the battle was being fought in 1916. The fighting resulted in over 1 million casualties in all. The battlefield, which saw fighting in the summer and autumn of 1916, has a lot to offer to visitors. You can see the Somme and the various cemeteries and monuments in the area. The Remembrance Trail leads visitors past some of the most important sites. Like other sites along the Western Front, this one has memorials, including the recognisable arch of the Thiepval Memorial.
6. Belleau Wood
Belleau Wood was the site of a 1918 battle where U.S. forces were able to repel an attack by German soldiers. The battle was part of a final attempt by Germany to push the allies back before U.S. troops could be fully deployed on the Western Front. The battle is an important part of the U.S. Marines’ history. Ordered to hold the line in Belleau Wood, the Marines dug shallow trenches with their bayonets and waited until German troops advanced within about 100 yards before opening fire. They eventually forced the Germans to retreat. Belleau Wood still has scars from the fighting that took place there. The battleground is located above the Aisne Marne American Cemetery. There are remnants of trenches, shell craters and relics recovered from the area, a monument to the troops who fought in Belleau (made by the U.S. Marine Corps and another similar monument, which can be found in nearby Chateau Thierry.
7. Gallipoli Peninsula
Not every major battle of World War I was fought in Western Europe. The Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), one of Germany’s most powerful allies, tried to gain territory in the Middle East during the conflict. Great Britain decided to attack the Ottomans by invading the Gallipoli Peninsula. Troops from Australia and New Zealand (known as ANZACs) were unable to eliminate Turkish troops from their fortifications and ended up being pulled from the line after months of fighting. The battlefields of Gallipoli are part of a Turkish national park. Roads and trails lead past memorials and the five dozen cemeteries in the area where the battle’s casualties are buried. The Gallipoli Simulation Center is a museum that gives viewpoints from both sides of the battle. Battle sites like Lone Pine, which ANZAC troops captured after suffering 50% casualties, is part of the ANZAC Walk, a route that passes through 14 major battle sites.
Have you ever visited any of these places?
Love, Deem/Skye Lewis ❤