Sorry folks it’s me for two days running. And today with a more serious edge to the blog. So I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the return of Phil’s dry wit.
I have been threatening for a while to write about how during our trip we have been constantly reminded of the terrible loss of life inflicted by the two world wars of last century. For many days we have been close to the Belgian border which German forces crossed twice with appalling loss of life for both soldiers and civilians. Not long after Calais we saw road signs for Ypres where hundreds of thousands of troops were killed in a series of battles in World War One.
A couple of weeks ago we stayed in the small French village of Aubers where there is a British military cemetery in memory of those killed in a futile conflict over a pimple of a ridge which ostensibly gave one of the sides a big strategic advantage in the terrible war of attrition.
A week ago we were in the town of Maubeuge where around 30,000 French troops surrendered after being besieged in the town’s massive fort by the German invading forces in 1914. And in 1940 around 90 per cent of the town was destroyed by German bombardments.
In the past week we have been cycling through the Ardennes – the undulating, densely forested region where German panzers swept through to skirt around the French defensive Maginot Line. As we travelled along by the side of the Meuse river, we regularly abandoned gun emplacements on the river bank.
And on our rest day today we have been in the town of Sedan, home of one of the biggest fort complexes in Europe and again only a few miles from the Belgian border. Despite these defences German forces captured the town in 1940 in a crucial battle ahead of the fall of France. So it was sobering to walk around the fort this morning together with Bridget, Phil and his girlfriend Brandi who arrived on the TGV from Paris late last night after flying out from South Korea.
Next week we are in Luxembourg which of course also suffered heavily during the German occupation in World War Two.