A Visit to Verdun – Nearly 100 Years After the End of World War I

Saturday my husband and I joined other members of my genealogy society luxracines on a trip to Verdun, France.

This year marks the centennial of the end of World War I. The deadliest conflict in the history of man. The human loss was great. Casualties for military personnel numbered at about eight million disabled and about ten million deaths, an average of 6,000 deaths per day. France had the greatest loss. The number of wounded, missing, and killed made up 30% of the active male population (18-65 years), for the most part, men between the ages of 17 and 45 who would never have children.

Battle of Verdun

The longest battle of the Great War, as World War I was known before World War II, was fought on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France from  21 February to 18 December 1916 and is known as the Battle of Verdun. Today the scars of the millions of shells fired and lethal fragments of shrapnel that marked the area during the Battle of 300 Days and Nights are hidden by the forested land. Nature has been allowed to cover the destruction of man in an area of 20,000 hectares (nearly 50,000 acres). After signing the armistice on 11 November 1918, France decided no one would be allowed to live in the devastated area and declared it a “Zone Rouge”.

The forest has become a sanctuary. Buried in the earth are the remains of 80,000 soldiers, a world heritage dating from the days of the Great War.

Ivan PARIS, professor of history and geography, was our guide for the day, explaining historical importance of each of the sites we visited.

Tranchée des Baïonettes

A la mémoire des soldats Français
qui dorment debout, le fusil à la main, dans cette tranchée.
Leurs frères d’Amériques.

Entrance of the Bayonet Trench Monument

In memory of French soldiers
who sleep standing, rifle in hand, in this trench.
Their American brothers.

The walkway to the gigantic cross on the wall.
A massive concrete slab supported by concrete pillars…
…protects the trench with its white wooden crosses.

Fort de Douaumont

We continued our visit to the Fort de Douaumont in the red zone.

Our guide on the machine gun turret of Fort Douaumont surrounded by Luxracines members
The German, European Union, and French flags flying over the Fort de Douaumont
Outside walls of the Fort Douaumont
The side entrance of Fort Douaumont
A passageway in the Fort Douaumont
Archway to the stairs to the lower level
Stairs to the lower level of the fort
Sketch of the machine gun turret on top of the fort and mechanisms in the lower level.
Corroded mechanism to lift the turret inside the fort

Ossuaire de DOUAUMONT

The Douaumont Ossuary contains the skeletal remains of at least 130,000 unidentified German and French soldiers on the lower level. They can be viewed through low windows on the outside of the building.

Inside, the stained glass windows cast a reddish glow in the 137 meters (449 feet) long cloister. The walls are covered with the names of French soldiers who died during the Battle of Verdun. Photography is not allowed in this sanctuary.

After a short visit to the chapel, we descended to the lower level to view a 20 minutes film about the ossuary.

View of the cemetery of identified soldiers from the front side of the Douaumont Ossuary

Unidentified bones are still being found in the area and added to the remains in the ossuary. Of the 300,000 who died during the Battle of Verdun, it is believed that about 80,000 are still buried in the fields and forest where the battle took place. Our guide explained the medical examiner of Verdun has to test all remains found to determine they are from the time period of the battle. He also shared the following anecdote.

In May 2015 three nearly perfectly preserved skeletons were found during the construction work on the new museum but with only one set of dog tags. Which of the three soldiers did the tags belong too? This is where GENEALOGY came into play as a direct descendant of the soldier named on the tags and a woman believed to be related to him were found. DNA samples yielded matches between the soldier, his grandson, and the woman. Read the entire story here: French WWI soldier identified by DNA and laid to rest. 

Following a nice lunch in the Restaurant La Brasserie du Parc in Verdun, we continued our afternoon sightseeing at the museum, Mémorial de Verdun.

Mémorial de Verdun

Part of the “Sacred Way” exhibit

Visitors are invited to enter the exhibit and walk in the footprints of the soldiers and cross the wooden boards which feel as if they are sinking in the mud.

Communicating At All Costs

Fernand Marche (1888-1916) was a runner in the 130th infantry regiment. On 1 August 1916, he volunteered to carry a message to his colonel near Fort Thiaumont but he was killed on the way. The next runner found his body, with his arm in the air and his fingers grasping the message. The messenger took the note and reached the colonel. A memorial to Private Marche was erected in 1925 in Bully-les-Mines, in front of the mining company in which he had worked before the war. ~ Text from the plaque

View of the Douaumont Ossuary from the upper platform of the Memorial de Verdun.

The City of Verdun

Following our visit to the museum, we were back in Verdun for a short walk through the streets and to have a drink on one of the many terraces on the banks of the Meuse River.

Mémoire Vive (left), a sculpture by the students of CAP Métallerie du Lycée Freyssinet in collaboration with the Lorraine artist Jean-No, and Porte Chaussee (right)
Monument to the Victory at Verdun
View from the top of the Monument to the Victory at Verdun
Mess des Officiers – Officer’s Mess in Verdun

Verdun is also well known for its sugared almonds known as dragées de Verdun. The almond, a symbol of fertility, was originally coated with honey. When medieval crusaders brought sugar to Europe in the 13th century it replaced the honey coating. White sugar coated dragées are gifted to guests at weddings (favors) as are blue or pink dragées at baptisms and to thank friends for baby gifts.

And finally, before boarding our bus to return to Luxembourg, we had our traditional group picture taken by our driver.

The day was well organized by our president Rob DELTGEN. Everyone had a wonderful time. I for one learned more about World War I and the Battle of Verdun from our very capable guide, Monsieur Ivan PARIS. We, my husband and I, plan to go back for a longer visit as there is so much more to learn and see in the beautiful city of Verdun and the surrounding area.

logo_klengMany thanks to Erich Singer who did a great job filming, cutting and editing.
Click here to watch the video.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

A Visit to Verdun - Nearly 100 Years After the End of World War I

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #58 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979

It’s Memorial Day and I’ve saved the best and the saddest for last. In this 1918 photograph Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE marked himself with an x and his nickname. As Roy only served three and a half months in the U.S. Army as a Private he likely spent his entire service time at Camp Lewis near Tacoma, Washington. No location is given for this photograph but it most likely was taken at Camp Lewis.

The Standard B “Liberty” Truck was a U.S. Army 4 x 2 drive setup, 4-ton vehicle with open cab and wooden-spoke wheels. In 1917 during World War I the U.S. Army employed the first motorized military vehicles replacing the conventional horse-drawn wagon. Here Roy is standing with his Army buddies on the flatbed of the 3rd of 4 Liberty trucks, without canopy covers.

RoyLillie4trucksIn Remembrance of Everett Isaac LILLIE 1915-1944

Roy’s nephew Everett was wounded in France on 6 June 1944 and died two days later. Please take a moment to honor him and others who lost their lives during wartime and while serving in the military. Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #11 In Remembrance of Everett Isaac LILLIE (1915-1944)

More about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #57 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979

Let’s begin Memorial Weekend with this group photo of Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE with his Barber Staff at Camp Lewis, as it was first known, in the state of Washington during World War I. I have no idea if the men seen with Roy in this photograph survived their military service or died while serving their country.

Thousands of the nation’s youth were mobilized and trained for war service at Camp Lewis which was hastily constructed in 1917. The description on the back of this photograph places Roy in the barber shop as the Chief of Staff (head honcho). Sixty thousand young men are said to have been there originally to train for World War I. That would mean a lot of haircuts!

Roy in the front is wearing the same winter coat he had on in the previous post with his rifle. Perhaps they were taken at the same time.

RoyLilliegroupFtLouisRoy added a bit of a description to the back of this photograph.

RoyLilliegroupFtLouisbackFort Lewis, Wash.
This is my Barber Staff. I am the
head cheese guy. Stokes.
Gunn. Laurence.
all regular army men to not ropes(?)
Stokes is from Temple Hill, Ill. I met him in Huurra(?)

More about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #56 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979

With Memorial Weekend soon coming up I would like to share these old photographs over several days, although not daily, until Memorial Day. In my last post I gave a short explanation as to why I am posting a veteran’s military photos.

Today we see Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE in uniform wearing his winter coat, hat and holding a rifle in 1918.

roylilliewithrifleMore about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #55 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979

With Memorial Weekend soon coming up I would like to share these old photographs over several days, although not daily, until Memorial Day. You are probably wondering why I am featuring a veteran when Memorial Day is for those who lost their lives while serving in the military, particularly in battle or of wounds sustained in battle. Being the daughter of a man who died while on active duty and the sister of men who are retired from the military, I know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. However I feel much more attention is given to the day at the end of May than the day in November which marks the end of World War I. So why wait until then to share these photos Roy LILLIE was so proud of?

I know very little about the time Samuel Royalty LILLIE served as a private in the U.S. Army during the Great War, World War I as we call it today. He enlisted on 31 August 1918 and was released on 19 December 1918 following the end of the war on 11 November 1918. He had this portrait taken at Morrison Photo in Chicago perhaps soon after enlistment.

RoyLillieage23Another copy of this photograph without the frame.

roylillieage23fullMore about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #54 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979

With Memorial Weekend soon coming up I would like to share these old photographs over several days, although not daily, until Memorial Day. Many men and women lost their lives while serving in the military and Memorial Day is when they are remembered. Roy LILLIE was not one of these men, he served in the U.S. military and was a veteran.

On 5 June 1917 when the World War I Draft Registration Card was filled out Samuel Royalty LILLIE was 22 and still working for his father on the home farm in Jefferson Precinct, Pope County, Illinois.

A year later in 1918 at the age of 23 Roy had his picture taken standing in full uniform in Metropolis, Massac County, Illinois. The tall, slender man with grey eyes and dark hair, as he was described on the WWI draft card,  was quite handsome in his uniform. He’d enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army on 31 Aug 1918.

roylilliestandinguniformMore about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #53 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979

With Memorial Weekend soon coming up I would like to share these old photographs over several days, although not daily, until Memorial Day.

We begin with a very young Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE, son of Isaac Spencer “Ike” LILLIE and Florence ROYALTY. He was born 30 May 1895 in Azotus, Pope County, Illinois. In 1900 he was living with his parents and older brother Reese Gentry LILLIE in Jefferson Precinct in Pope County. His father owned the farm he worked. By 1910 the family had increased with the births of Raymond, Ruth and Ruby. Roy (14) and his brother Reese (17) were laborers on the home farm. Both of the boys could read and write but only Roy attended school after 1 September 1909.

This photograph was likely taken in the early 1910s soon after Roy finished school.

youngroylillieca1915Other photographs of Samuel Royalty LILLIE:
#53 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979 (young Roy)
#54 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979 (in uniform)
#55 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979
(portrait with hat)
#56 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979 (in uniform with rifle)
#57 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979 (barber staff)
#58 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979 (Liberty trucks)
#59 Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE 1895-1979 (in New Orleans)
#61 Bartender and Owner of Brazell’s Bar in Detroit (1939)
#62 Samuel Roy LILLIE and his Retirement Plaque (1960)
#63 Taking a Walk in Detroit (1930s)

#64 Brother and Sister in 1950

More about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Save

Save

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #25 Iowa Doughboy

This is a spin-off of my 52 Ancestors: #14 Albert Spencer LILLIE (1848-1913) ~ Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can blogpost in which I featured a few photos from a collection of old photographs my 4C1R Joe Rooney shared with me. I asked Joe about using the photos and he kindly wrote, Please use them at your will.  I feel it is keeping it in the family and don’t need credit.  If anything, I appreciate your evaluations, identifications and detective work.  I’m hopeful you and yours enjoy them.  On a blog, in a book, above a cloud.”

#24 Iowa Doughboy

iowadoughboyfrontThe back of the photograph (below) identifies this man as Ray POYER. Or could the surname have a different ending? Iowa may be the place the photo was taken and not the state Ray POYER was from.

iowadoughboyback Any help identifying this man would be greatly appreciated.

Links to previous posts in this series may be found in Old Photographs

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

Joe Rooney kindly gave me permission to use these photographs on my blog.

Joe ROONEY wrote on 15 February 2015: This collection of photographs was scanned at 300 dpi color by me. The original photos were sent by Sandra Lillie about ten years ago after she found them cleaning out a relative’s garage in Southern Illinois, finding no other takers (suckers). She believes they were a collection by L Vance Lillie. Many of the pictures seemed to be removed from frames or were in albums evidenced by fading characteristics and may have been from other’s collections. I scanned the reverse if there was laboratory advertising or writing. Some of the authors’ identification may be figured out of the handwriting matches. I did not scan the reverse of photos where there was only a three digit number that I believe to be sequence numbers on a roll of film. I didn’t spot any obvious helpful commonalities.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Save

Military Occupation of Luxembourg – 1914

On August 2, 2014 at 14:58 air-raid sirens will be wailing in communes across Luxembourg for 2 minutes to commemorate the start of the Great War in the country.

Residents of Luxembourg are urged not to panic when the alarm is raised to mark the Great War centenary tomorrow.

1914
Luxemburger Wort, Monday 3 August 1914, Page 1 [online: http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu/BnlViewer/view/index.html?lang=en#panel:pp|issue:1117588|page:1] Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg.

The First World War officially began in Luxembourg on the 2nd of August 1914. The day before, at about 7 in the evening, the first German soldiers entered the northern part of neutral Luxembourg, taking over the country, as they began their march westwards to attack France.

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey