Whether it is due to a growing interest in family history, an interest in historic wars or in respect of those who fought to protect our freedom, many people have taken the trip to visit the fields that were once the battlefields of Normandy. During the First World War, these fields were full of soldiers of all nationalities, many of whom lost their lives in battle.
Armistice Day on 11 November is a national holiday in France. Citizens remember the 600,000 soldiers that were killed in the Nord-du-Pais-Calais region of France between 1914 and 1918. In France two consecutive minutes of silence are observed. The first is to remember those who lost their lives and the second is in respect of those families and friends who were left behind.
In France the blue cornflower, rather than the red poppy is the symbol of remembrance. Both flowers represent the resilience of life, as they both continued to flower despite the constant shelling, trench digging and trampling of soldiers that turned fields into plains of mud.
One hundred years on from the start of the First World War, a memorial has this year been inaugurated at the largest war cemetery, Notre Dame de Lorette. Soldiers are named on this memorial in alphabetical order rather than being categorised by their nationality: great loss is felt no matter where the individual was born.
When we visit a foreign country, sightseeing is a popular way to discover more about the country’s culture, history and traditions. The battlefields of Normandy may not be your first choice for a sightseeing stop on route to your holiday destination, but it could have more personal significance than other attractions.
If you discover that your relatives played an active role in protecting our country from invasion, you may find visiting Notre Dame de Lorette is an emotional experience. These war memorials give us an opportunity to show our respect and are a poignant reminder to be grateful of the lives we live today.
If you are crossing the English Channel from Dover to Calais on route to your French holiday, it isn’t a great detour to visit some of the war sites. Travelling with a family is no reason to be put off, as the experience can also help children to bring their learning in the classroom to life and help their understanding of historic events.
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