Friday, May 4, 2018

Dinant 1914

Dinant is unusual in the history of the Western Front in WWI as it was a scene of bloody military clashes and one of the first sites of civilian massacre.

On the 15th August 1914, the 11th company of the 33rd infantry regiment received an order to repel German soldiers who were attempting to cross the bridge at Dinant. 

The German's had already taken the Citadel in a fierce and bloody fight. 

Lieutenant Charles de Gaulle went to the aid of the French soldiers retreating from the Citadel and, under fire, he was badly injured in his right leg. 

The powerful artillery of the French army opened fire and  under their cover, the Red Trousers regained control of the right bank of the Meuse and managed to retake the Citadel.

On Sunday the 23rd of August known as bloody Sunday the French were forced to pull back on to the left bank of the Meuse and the Germans took revenge.

They took 674 people and executed them - men, women and children. Another  400 residents of the town were deported to Kassel in Germany and kept their for 4 months. 

When night fell countless fires were started, over 1000 buildings more than two thirds of the town were reduced to ashes.

On the evening of  that Sunday ( August 23rd) the few inhabitants who had remained in Dinant and and survived,  had to conceal themselves in a  town that had been completely destroyed. They hid in cellars or amongst the ruins. The rebuilding process, which started in 1918, took many, many years. For monuments of national importance the law permitted 2 options – shore up the ruins or reconstruct them identically. The citizens of Dinant chose the latter. 

The battle of those few days  took the lives of over 5000 people on both side, military and civilian.

A happy little place now- Saxophones everywhere

And the citadel overlooks the entire town

The view from the cable car shows the difficulty an attack.

And gives a lovely view of Dinant, the Meuse.

Peaceful gardens within the walls now

a Sculpture garden for the fallen

A tour of the dungeons

Madame Guillotine

  A nifty hand removal device

An example of the Mastiff at war, bred for pulling cannons.

A sound and visual re enactment. Still scary.

A constant roll call of the dead.... with ages

A viewfinder shows the town as it was then...

and as it is now....

no happy end for old bores here....

As it was in WW1

This led onto a mocked up trench they really were.
Dark, noisy, stinky,  very uneven underfoot. 
And puddles with authentic scents.
Some of  my fellow tourists had panic attacks.

                                                 The monument to the dead of a massacre
                    I think when the sun shines, the names light up on the floor in between.
But by the time we got there, rain was on its way. Later, we were walking through the campsite and came across one of the four cemeteries of Dinant.  It seemed that every  vault held a body marked with a date of death- 23rd August 1914.   Beside them, the next generation, and the next.

Caro Ramsay 04 05 2018


  1. That's quite a moving piece, Caro. I started to read it this morning, but put it aside until tonight. It reminded me of other sites I've seen, of other massacres. And of continuing massacres that "civilization" continues to countenance. It was Stalin (I believe) who once said, "the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic." May the deaths of these 674 never be forgotten.

  2. I always wonder what goes through the heads of people who perpetrate such atrocities. Do they have any qualms or is their sense of decency and compassion just suppressed by the role they are playing?