After breakfast aboard the Saroche on the Marne canal, we headed out with our private guide, Captain Jason, for a tour of the WWI trenches at La Main de Massiges, a 10 acre site with a series of trenches located on the Western Front that were fought over and occupied between 1914 and 1918 by both the French and German troops.
After wandering through the countryside of Champagne we pulled onto private property and made the drive to the excavation site. There were very few cars or individuals around. Upon departing the van we were struck by the silence: the sound was of soft rustling leaves. As we approached the 8-12’ deep trenches of white limestone and chalk with heavy coils of rusted barbed wire we were struck by the stark contrast of this hole of violence set within the pastoral rolling green hillsides and valleys below.
As we made our way down into the trenches and began to explore the artifacts including crates, shoes, bottles, tin plates, metal stove, etc. that have been discovered, still left where they were found, we began to envision what life must have been like for the men living and fighting in these small, confined spaces. From the cold, the wet, the starvation, and the brutality of warfare – it was a stark reminder of the comforts of our lives.
To date, the excavation of the sight has located nine graves of soldiers. President of ‘La Main de Massiges’ Eric Marchal said, “When we find a body, we think, whether they are French or German, we think about the families behind them. We are rediscovering a missing person who generally is around twenty years old, so we think about his parents who wept for this man, or about the children, and as we find them almost one hundred years later, it’s the most moving (moment) for us.”
Over 16 million people lost their lives during World War One. At the time it was described as the war to end all wars which we now know was not to be. Le Main de Massiges is a stark reminder of the horrors of war. May it be a lesson to us all to seek peace whenever possible.
For more information on this trip check out the 21-Day Itinerary Paris, Normandy, Champagne, Loire & Paris.
Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.