Oradour sur Glane 2016

Discussion in 'WW2 Battlefields Today' started by slick, May 7, 2016.

  1. slick

    slick Junior Member

    Last week the wife and I, along with the grandaughter, decided to to take another visit to France. As I`ve wanted to visit Oradour sur Glane for quite some time we decided to bite the bullet and try and plan a few days away.
    Brittany ferries at last came up trumps from Plymouth to Roscoff. They had a special offer on a long weekend, leaving at 20:45 hours on the Thursday evening and arriving in Roscoff at 0800 Friday. The return trip to the UK left Roscoff at 15:00 hours the following Monday, reaching Plymouth at 20:10, leaving only a shortish trip back to Cornwall that evening.
    Cost would have been around £159 for the car and two people but as we were taking the grandaughter along the cost went up to £223. A 4 berth cabin was included in the price for the overnight crossing.

    I finally invested in a sat nav because of the miles involved, and it turned out to be a god send. No more flailing around constantly referring to maps en route. The only thing I didn`t like was that reading from a map I tend to know where abouts I am and learn the route along the way , but with the sat nav I hadn`t a clue as to my whereabouts most of the time, being at the beck and call of the sat navs route selection and the guiding voice. Having said that, it stopped a lot of bickering and missed turns at junctions.

    We decided to break the journey up, travelling to Huelgoat on the Friday morning, which is a few miles from Morlaix. The town has a wonderful 'Valley of rocks' which consists of hundreds of very large boulders with an almost underground stream, which made for a fascinating forest walk. The town itself is pleasant enough but slightly run down in places, there is an excellent bar/tabac right next to the entrance to the valley where we grabbed a coffee for lunch. I did a google for 'Huelgoat ww2' and a few interesting pics came up to tie in with the resistance movement and the liberation of the town following the Normandy landings.

    We left Huelgoat at sometime just past midday and travelled south to our hotel destination at Niort which is about 280 miles (I think) from the port of Roscoff. I picked a budget Ibis about 5 miles from the centre of the town. As I`d used the Ibis in Bayeux I knew roughly what to expect so no unpleasant surprises thankfully. Rooms were clean and staff were helpful and friendly.
    I had decided to use Niort as a base for two nights as it`s about 80 miles from Oradour sur glane, cost for the two nights was about 70 euros fro three people in one room.

    Saturday morning we travelled to Oradour, the sat nav picking out a cross country route. We passed through several French villages which was interesting in that it provided a view of what Oradour sur Glane may have looked like had it not been ravaged. Prior to the trip I did a google to try and find some pics of Oradour before the war, I only came across a few but it gave me some idea of what the village looked like in it`s heyday.
    I`d also carried out some reading on the events of 10/6/44 at the village, very disturbing, fascinating, and also mystifying, as if reading a book and a page or chapter is missing.
    On arrival we parked up and ventured towards the visitor centre, which looked like a red painted triangular affair. Upon closer inspection it seems that the centre is built of bare steel which has been allowed to rust. This gives a cold and slightly foreboding feeling. Venturing down the steps and into the centre, the walls are bare concrete much like a bunker which adds to the sense of foreboding. I`m not sure if the visitor centre is suitable, just my personal feeling. The village is a memorial and the centre creates such an impact that I think I would have liked to visit when the old simple entrances were at each end of the village to make a comparison. By going through the centre it almost feels like a tourist attraction and takes something away from the village itself.

    I purchased a map from the shop for about 2 euros which was printed on coated card which came in handy when it started to drizzle with rain, and then carried on up to the village, the old weathered entrance signs for 'Remember' and 'Silence' striking a chord.
    I ended up getting separated from the mrs and grandaughter as my wife likes to take lots of photographs, but I tend to amble around taking in the details with the odd pic here and there. I must admit to feeling slightly numb as I walked around the streets, the events which occurred here are so difficult to comprehend that it is hard to believe it happened, or indeed that human beings could be so cruel. Of course it did happen and I have been slightly haunted by the visit since returning from the trip, my mind constantly asking the old question of 'why'.

    I had an odd moment standing by the old tram station, an old chap who I assumed was French looking at one of the buildings which was supported by scaffolding. He was making gestures intimating that the building must need the support as it`s so old and in a ruined state. I answered 'yes' in French and also started gesticulating. It took a minute or so of this activity before we realised that both of us were English, after which we had a very engaging conversation. Apparently he visits the village at least once a year from Spain, in order to 'pay respect' to the murdered inhabitants.

    It took a couple of hours to wander around, I could have taken longer but I bumped into the mrs who was tired so we made our way back through the centre where we bought a few items from the shop. It was only then that I realised there were two exhibitions in the centre, one for the faces of the slain for about 2euros, and one with the history of the massacre for about 7 euros. the signage was in French so they were fairly easy to miss. The books in the shop were also mostly in French with maybe a half dozen in English.
    One of the books the wife bought was the diary of a schoolteacher who was murdered on the fateful day, unfortunately this was in French with no English translation available so we may have a few weeks with google translate trying to make some kind of sense of the text. As the mrs was tired she didn`t want to see the exhibitions so we toddled off to the car. The return journey to Niort was uneventful as the satnav decided to take us back along the dual carriageways this time.

    Sunday morning saw us head for Saint Nazaire, my wife wanted to travel over the bridge there and I wanted to have a peek at the U boat pens. Both are incredible constructions, although the pens are filled in to some extent and also turned over partially to commercial interests. I`ve heard that the pens at Lorient are better preserved and worth a visit.

    Our next stop was the Breton Resistance museum at Saint Marcel, entry around 7.5 euros. It reminded me of the museum of occupation at Quinneville in Normandy. Everything is in French but you receive an A4 folder with an English translation to help your tour. Unfortunately cameras are not allowed inside the museum so no pics.
    Whilst the museum at Quinneville was set in a U shape and was easy to follow with the translated guide, the museum at Saint Marcel is set out in several rooms, the numbered exhibits appear somewhat higgledy piggledy which makes it hard at times to follow. It is also maybe too comprehensive (just a personal view), starting at the Nazi rise to power and moving almost meticulously through the invasion of various countries and the occupation of France. By the time I got to the main exhibit which was about the battle between maquis/French SAS and German forces which took part in the area surrounding the museum I was fairly knackered and didn`t pay as much attention as I should have. There are several exhibits outside the museum including a few vehicles in a smallish garage (which unfortunately had the doors shut).

    I`m not totally sure but whilst the Quinneville museum is privately owned, the St Marcel museum is I believe run by volunteers and only one member on the day seemed to be running the ticket counter and taking care of any other things which needed doing. One thing which was very noticeable was the lack of a 'gift' shop, there were no books or souvenirs available at all which is a missed opportunity for the museum I think.

    Late afternoon saw us heading for Langeux. I`m not sure why I headed there, I think at the time I thought it would be nice to head for the coast and spend an evening taking in some different scenery. We had booked in to an Hotel F1, another part of the Accor group which owns the Ibis chain. A room for three people cost about 42 euros with a basic unlimited quantity breakfast (toast, cereals, coffee etc.) The F1 rooms are of a similar layout to to Ibis but are of a lower standard (but still clean), and also have no en suite facilities, the toilet and showers being a few metres down the hall. Not ideal for someone who has to get up a couple of times a night for a widdle. It was more of a backpackers hostel and I doubt if I`d book into one again.

    On Monday morning we travelled to Morlaix which looks slightly run down around the harbour area unfortunately, as there are some very interesting medieval buildings there. After meandering around the local supermarket we headed for Roscoff, took a stroll around the town, bought a few souvenirs and finally boarded for our return crossing.
    Plymouth is an ideal port for us as it`s only a shortish drive back to Cornwall especially if we arrive back following an evening crossing. Unfortunately it doesn`t have the number of crossings per year and is restricted during the winter months. It`s also noticeably more expensive than other crossings. We used the Poole/ Cherbourg crossing when visiting Normandy and the drive back to Cornwall at night is tiring but do-able. The Dover/Calais crossing return journey when visiting the Somme is punishing and normally the wife drives for part of the journey back home.

    I asked the wife if she would visit Oradour sur Glane again and it was a definate 'yes' but only if we had a week to do it in.
    In retrospect I tried to 'pack out' the few days we had with too much. I should have used the fast toll roads straight down to Limoges, booked into the Ibis there and then spent a couple of days visiting the village, before heading straight back to the port on the same route. Although this would have involved a longer straight through run, I think the more time available at Oradour would have been worth it. As we were fairly tired from the driving we didn`t even venture into the new town for a wander which was a shame.

    The wife made a few remarks about the village. One was the abundance of sewing machines, there did seem to be a lot but when I think back, both my gran and mum had a machine each and they certainly weren`t rich people. These were the days before throw away clothes so making your own or make do and mend was very common, and machines were affordable to quite a few people. It has been said that Oradour was a 'fairly rich' village so the number of machines isn`t out of place in my opinion. The other remark was about the lack of engine in the doctors car (at the bottom of the fairground), and the square cut from the grill. I came across the answer to this in Sarah Farmers book, the car was removed and dismantled in the 1990`s in order to give it some rust prevention. Once this was applied it was put back in place in the village. Unfortunately in the book it states that this isn`t the doctors car at all. The doctors brother removed the original car shortly after the event of 10 June and parked it within the garden of his home. The car at the bottom of the fairground is apparently the wine merchants car.

    There was a moment whilst walking around the village where I emerged from the memorial crypt which houses some of the inhabitants artifacts found after the event, when the new town church bells started chiming at midday. Looking down over the hedges into the old village, with the sound of the bells in the background, was probably the closest I got to realising that real people used to live in what are now ruins. It was a sobering feeling.
     
  2. slick

    slick Junior Member

    Huelgoat - entrance to valley of rocks
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    La Grotte de Diable
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  3. slick

    slick Junior Member

    Oradour sur Glane
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  4. slick

    slick Junior Member

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  5. slick

    slick Junior Member

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  6. slick

    slick Junior Member

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  7. slick

    slick Junior Member

  8. slick

    slick Junior Member

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  9. slick

    slick Junior Member

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  10. slick

    slick Junior Member

    Saint Nazaire U boat pens

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  11. slick

    slick Junior Member

    Saint Marcel

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  12. slick

    slick Junior Member

  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Slick

    We could have met up for a coffee in St Marcel

    The Museum has been threatened with a refurb now for a while. Unfortunately it is proving difficult to obtain the finances for the project as it has to have agreement with and between Commune, Local, Departmental, Regional and National :ewink:

    TD
     
  14. slick

    slick Junior Member

    That would`ve been good TD.
    I read that the museum was threatened with closure a few years back which would`ve be a shame. The subject matter concerning the Breton resistance battle should`ve taken precedence I feel, because of the link with the surrounding area. I do hope that the funding is forthcoming as it would be a superb little museum with a makeover and re-organisation. :salut:
     
  15. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Slick

    Thanks - not sure if you know but there is a book about what happened at St Marcel - The Next Moon by Andre Hue - he was the SOE agent who was dropped in here.

    TD

    edited to add:

    Slick - forgot to say there are some pics in my gallery for St Marcel - I think the jeep will be the same one
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks for sharing the pics and well done you for driving all the way there. I did the trip around ten years ago on my motorbike and it was no easy drive. I also went to Tulle where another war crime took place.

    Ps Satnavs in France are a must. I normally go to France at least once a year and trying to navigate around without one is a nightmare due to their excellent road signage ;)
     
  17. slick

    slick Junior Member

    Thanks TD, that`s just the sort of book I was looking for if the museum had a gift shop. I`ll look it up online. :)

    No worries Drew. I think the drive was about 400 miles from Roscoff to Oradour sur Glane, not too bad in a car. Good effort driving there on a bike, ok if the weathers good but I`m a bit of a fair weather rider these days. :ewink:
     
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Bad weather always follows me and my bike...I swear I had a permanent rain cloud above me when I used to go out.
     
  19. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Slick

    Good account of your historical itinerary,We made the first trip of many,many years ago.

    I plotted a route from the Cherbourg ferry to the Dordogne using only D Class roads but had to use the RNs from Noirt with an overnight stop at Cande...later found out that S.T published the route very much like mine.In those days you have to obtain a collection of maps for passing through each area.Coming back I took the RNs and we completed our little tour at Calais with two overnight stops on the way back.Thundering and lightning across the Channel and rain down to Cande but on Saturday,brilliant sunshine broke out and that was the case for our fortnight....some overnight thunder but every day beautiful weather with not a cloud in the sky.Reasonable summer weather is assured in France.

    Incidentally,access to the submarine base at Lorient is forbidden as it is a functioning "sousmarine" base.Further, on open days non French nationals are denied entry.There must have been a change of policy by the St Marcel Museum as regards photographs.When Ii was at there in July 2012,I took many photographs of the exhibits along with the excellent captions in English

    Sorry to hear from T.R that the museum may have some funding difficulties... a worthwhile visit illustrating the actions leading to the liberation of Brittany by US Army and the part played by the SOE Hue's Hillybilly, Jedburgh units and the French SAS No 4 Battalion under the command of Bourgoin in the task cutting Brittany's communications with the rest of France.

    Regarding navigation,I prefer the map,I like to know where I am and also with the maps of there is added information of sites with historic significance...monuments,memorials and such like.As regards long distances, I use the A Class toll roads with confidence...diverting on the RN and D Class roads has the advantage of the chance to see the France of yesteryear along with finding reasonably priced overnight auberges.
     
  20. slick

    slick Junior Member

    For us it was overcast on Friday, same with rain on Saturday, Sunday was like a summers day, and Monday was reasonable. I mentioned to the wife that it`s probably the worst weather we`ve ever encountered in France during our trips.
    Something must have changed at the St Marcel museum Harry, there were no English translations except the A4 folder handed out. And there was a plaque on the wall just before entering room 1 with a pic of a camera on it with a bold red cross through it (which we took to mean no photographs,) although there was a French chap in there who took a few snaps with his camera.
    Thanks for the information regarding Lorient pens. I read on another site that they offered guided tours (which the wife isn`t fond of anyway), but I`ll steer clear as it sounds like a wasted trip.
     

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