#1364. Lonely planet

By Pascal Ollier | Travel Photography

Jun 06

Verdun is not a spontaneous destination. Located some 225km due east of Paris, 250km south of Brussels in a region not famous for its friendliness (very cold in winter especially), the trip will not make you dream in anticipation.

Yet Verdun plays a major role in history.

February 21, 1916, World War one, allied and central European forces start fighting each other all guns blazing.

This battle is of horrendous fierceness. The first day sees two millions shells thrown at one another.

One every one and a half seconds. An unbeaten record to date.

53 million shells in total, some 700.000 casualties on both sides from mortaring, gassing over a ten month period.

In 1916, when communication, medical means are limited.

This has obvious dramatic, devastating consequences.

View from the Verdun ossuary memorial


The building of the following memorial was intiated soon after the November 1918 truce and completed…late 1932. Right before the moustachioed painter came to power in Germany.

Lessons learnt ??


I then proceeded to visit the American cemetary commemorating the brave young Americans who donated their lives to support the allied forces as of April 1916.

As discovered in 2021 at the Normandy beaches (and described in related post), the USA do a formidable job in honoring those who fought for their country and its allies.


The entrance to the cemetary is solemn and spectacular


and each and every square centimeter/inch is kept in pristine condition.


This is the largest American cemetary outside the USA, something I did not know until my visit.


There is a distinct, profound sadness to this place. Because, while it was a perfect day, there was not a soul to be seen.

More than a hundred years have passed, possibly making Verdun a less obvious destination, reinforced by the fact that it obviously does not have the same touristic appeal as the countryside around the Normandy beaches.

To think that this huge sacrifice only led to another one, on the way mere months after the completion of the memorial, is all the more moving and disturbing.

As if all these young men has died in horrific conditions for absolutely nothing.


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  • Paul Perton says:

    Agreed 100% Pascal. I found the name of my (paternal) grandfather’s brother on the Menin Gate in Ypres. It’s there because his remains were never found…

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Oh wow! It must have been a painful moment.
      The whole landscape around Verdun is completely discombobulated due to all the bombing, even after a full century has gone by. Villages totally erased from the map. Absolutely unimaginable.

  • Jon Maxim says:

    Hi Pascal,

    “There is a distinct, profound sadness to this place. Because, while it was a perfect day, there was not a soul to be seen.”

    Your images profoundly illustrate that. Congratulations on your use of angled wide-angle perspectives to create the mood.

    “As if all these young men has died in horrific conditions for absolutely nothing.”

    Agreed, even though we were not there, let’s not forget.


  • John Wilson says:

    Cemetaries are by their nature lonely and heartbreaking places. War cemetaries are the most lonely and heartbreaking of them all … such a terrible waste. The D Day memorial overshadows all … for the moment. Come November 11, that will change dramatically.

    See also the Vimy Memorial here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vimy_Ridge
    and here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_National_Vimy_Memorial

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you for the links John.
      In fact, yesterday President Biden went to yet another cemetery during his French visit, honoring World War One veterans.
      Thank you for your comments.

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Very topical

    The 2nd last image has the distinct look of a lace shawl , similar to what might be worn by a grieving family member.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Pascal I was born slap bang in the middle of the war that followed this one. And grew up, watching war after war take place. Thinking “there’s no point – war doesn’t solve a thing – wars just cause more wars!” Then I stumbled on the story of Poland – for a thousand years, between 1,000AD and 2,000 AD, Poland was invaded and taken over by one country after another. No wonder Poles are very reclusive! And the sick part ofd the story? – guess who’s running Poland, these days! The Poles are! So what the hell was the point of all those wars, those invasions? Nothing, apparently.

    Aside from which – love your photos. Sadly, I can’t deal with cemeteries – funerals – all that kind of stuff. It freaks me out. I keep the loved ones that have left this world alive in my mind and in my heart – my own variation on the religion I was raised with – and the body is just a piece of dead meat, of no possible interest, no further use, to anyone – just something that needs to be disposed of. But each day of my life I think about them – and the good times we shared. I don’t even think of them as “dead” – just “transposed” to another space, another level. I guess I picked up the idea form the “Rainbow Bridge”, where all our dogs have gone, waiting for us to join up with them again.

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Dear Pete, thank you for this very moving comment. I can only agree with how you regard your gone loved ones. I cherish my own every day just the same way.
      Thanks again, Pete, take care!

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