Today is the 19th and we set off for the town of Peronne. It’s east of where we are and so was in German hands for longer than the smaller villages that we have already visited.
It sits beside Mont St Quentin, a formidable town captured by the Australians in September 1918.
We were there, in Peronne to visit the Museum Historial and see if was different to any of those smaller museums we have see in other towns.
This one seems to have had a lot of money put into it and it sets out to teach you something about the origins of the war as well as the conduct of it and the outcomes.
There’s a terrific section in the beginning dealing with conflicts of the war’s preceding years – Russia and Japan, the Boer war and conquests in Africa by France and Germany. All of course contributing to a belief in the powers of European States to wage war and to do so in a way that they controlled. None were aware, it seemed, that they were lining up for a very different form of war: far more deadly, far longer and more devastating than the old order. And then it goes on with material we hadn’t seen in other displays.
And despite Australians liberating Peronne, our men were classified as colonial combatants. here we are with, I think, Moroccans and who knows who.
I was pleased to see attempts to show the suffering on the home front, the role of women, and then to the involvement of children and their militarising through games and story books. Examples of propaganda on both sides were there too and that was in the form of plates and other ceramics, posters and newspaper articles. As well there was the usual examples of dress, of machinery in the form of weapons and communication items.
Some high tech displays were there and more were being developed. For example there was a map of Europe in 1915 and as you touched the dates along the bottom, there would be information displayed on the map of what particular conflict was taking place. And of course it wasn’t just one – often there were more things happening at the same time.
Loads of kids were there, running around and finding answers to questions on sheets they held in their hands. I wanted to know the questions they were being asked.
We’ve read that the town was liberated by the Australians. This was not highlighted in the displays and I felt a little cheated. Only a little though as the contribution of all those involved was so great that who would want to signal out any group.
It’s worth noting that the British fourth Army Commander, Henry Rawlinson, said that the Australians at Mont St Quentin and Peronne was ‘the greatest military achievement of the war.’
And then a quiche for lunch – no better than Mum’s favourite at the Magnolia in Dubbo! Merde!