GREAT WAR MUSEUM … AND A TOWN NAMED MEAUX …

  You may think that the First World War (Great War) is too far into the past to interest you: that it is for veterans of wars, for historians, for lecturers and teachers, for researchers, for biographers, for the old and the aging. No! Believe me, visiting the Great War Museum – Le Musée de […]

Great War Museum, Meaux (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Great War Museum, Meaux (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

 

You may think that the First World War (Great War) is too far into the past to interest you: that it is for veterans of wars, for historians, for lecturers and teachers, for researchers, for biographers, for the old and the aging.

No! Believe me, visiting the Great War Museum – Le Musée de la Grande Guerre – is a most interesting experience: a lesson in the folly of mankind.

Inaugurated on November 11, 2011 by France’s then President, Nicolas Sarkozy, the museum is a glass structure of 7000 sq.m. on a plateau 5 kms north-east from the centre of the town of Meaux, 41 kms (25 miles) north-east of Paris. (Meaux is pronounced ‘mo’.)

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The site was chosen because on that plateau was fought the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914 and then the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918 which signalled defeat for Germany. Also, already standing on the site was the monument (you will see it below) ‘Liberty Weeping’ (La liberté éplorée) presented to France by the Americans in memory of the soldiers who had lost their lives in the Great War.  The monument, created by the American artist and sculptor Frederick MacMonnies (1863-1937), inaugurated in September 1932 by the then President of France, Albert Lebrun, depicts a naked woman holding her son who had died in battle.  It is beautiful: most impressive.

Liberty Weeping (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Liberty Weeping (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

Seeing one is always inclined to think ‘money’ I will quickly tell you that the construction of the building had cost €31 million  of which €28 million had come from the State and the local authority – the Community of Pays de Meaux – while the rest had come from 30 donors.

The museum houses 50,000 objects, a great number of these having been donated by the French Great War historian and Great War specialist, Jean-Verney. Monsieur Verney had become interested in the Great War when he was a child spending holidays with his grandmother who lived near the Chemin des Dames where the April 1917 Battle of Chemin des Dames – Ladies’ Road – was fought.

(Just a word here about the book I have written about the Second World War French serial killer, Dr Marcel Petiot. At the outbreak of the Great War, he had wanted to volunteer for active service, but had to wait until January 1916 to turn 19 before he could enlist.

Die in Paris (copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Die in Paris (copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Later in life, standing trial for murder, he would say that he had been in the trenches in the Battle of the Ladies’ Road and was wounded. He was wounded, yes, but a question mark hangs over how and when. You can order by book Die in Paris on any amazon site.)

In the museum you will see planes, tanks, weapons, uniforms, mess kits, field hospitals, mock up of trenches, models of warships and troop ships, bunkers, newspapers and magazines of the period, posters of the period, photographs and cartoons and paintings, and you can watch short films.  The visit, in fact, begins with a 10-minute film of our world as it is now and taking one back through the years to before the outbreak of the Great War. I personally did not find that film interesting and if it were up to me I would remove it.

Below: Great War plane

Great War Museum,Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Great War Museum,Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Below: Officers’ bunks in bunker.

Great War Museum, Meaux, (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Great War Museum, Meaux, (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Below: Communications bunker.

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Below: Field Hospital (2)

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

 

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Below: Field Kitchen

Great War Museum, Meaux (Marilyn Z Tomlins copyright)

Great War Museum, Meaux (Marilyn Z Tomlins copyright)

 

You get to the museum from Meaux by bus.

But first let me tell you how you get to Meaux from Paris.

There are two trains daily on weekdays and one train daily over weekends to Meaux from Paris’s Gare de l’Est railway(railroad) station.  I recommend that you buy a Mobilis day ticket at your starting point in Paris. A Mobilis ticket is sold by Zone and Meaux falls in the 5th (and highest) zone. The ticket will therefore cost you €16.60. A bit steep, yes I agree, but it will be valid until midnight and it you will also be able to go from Meaux to the museum and back to Meaux with it.

The train you will need to take is the Transilien P and it takes about half an hour from Paris to reach Meaux.

The bus you will need to take you to the museum is No. M6 and it runs from outside the station and its end destination is the museum. Know though that there are just two M6 buses in an hour to and from the museum, weekdays as over weekends. The bus stops in front of the ‘Liberty Weeping’ monument, and you then walk back the way the bus had come. (You will see the museum, so need to worry you will get lost out in the wild.)

The bus takes 10 minutes to and from the monument. Of course, if you are driving to the museum there is parking for 120 vehicles.

The street leading from the highway where you will descend from the bus is named Rue Lazare Ponticelli. Lazare Ponticelli was France’s last Great War survivor. He died on March 12, 2008 aged 110. He died in the commune named Kremlin-Bicêtre on the southern periphery on Paris.

An entry ticket to the museum cost €10. If you are over 65 you will get €3 reduction.

The museum is open each day but Tuesday from 10 am to 5.30. From May to September it stays open until 6.30 pm.

There is a café on the ground floor.

Below:  Weapons and ammo in a bunker

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

About Meau

Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The Marne River runs through Meaux. As the Seine in Paris divides the capital into a Left and a Right bank, in Meaux the Marne divides the old part of the town into a North Quarter and a South Quarter. On Saturdays there is an open-air market in the south quarter, stalls all along the narrow cobbled streets and on the many centuries-old stone bridges. The Meaux Cathedral is in the North Quarter.  Built in the years from 1175-1180 it is plain and simple, but indeed beautiful.

Meaux Market (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Meaux Market (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Meaux Feb 2015 Cathedral (5)

Meaux Feb 2015 Cathedral inside

Meaux Cathedral (Copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Meaux Cathedral (Copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Beside the cathedral is the Bossuet Museum – le Musée Bossuet de Meaux – where you will be able to admire very many paintings and art objects dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries. Bossuet (1627-1704) was a Bishop of Meaux, and believer in the divine right of kings, and opponent of Protestantism.

This museum like the Great War Museum is closed on Tuesdays. From October 1 to March 31 it is open from 10 am to noon, and then from 2 pm to 5 pm. From September 30 to April 1 it stays open until 6 pm. An entry ticket costs €3.50.

No doubt your reason for going to Meaux will be to visit the Great War Museum, and as its visit will take at least 3 hours, when you return to the town, the Bossuet Museum would already have closed. However, the Great War Museum is more important.

So, the Bossuet Museum being closed, you can walk around the old town.

You would want to have something to drink, so do know that there are surprisingly few cafés in the town. Restaurants there are, yes, but they close at 3 pm and unlike the Paris bistro and brasserie they won’t allow you to come in just for a drink. Same goes for the boat on the Marne. And know that its fixed lunch menu is priced €33.

Boat Restaurant on Marne. (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Boat Restaurant on Marne. (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Below: Open-air Market on this 12th century bridge.

Meaux (Copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Meaux (Copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Below: Messenger Pigeon truck

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlin

Great War Museum, Meaux (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlin

Below: Tombstone for the grave of an unknown German soldier.

Great War Museum (Copyright Marilyn Z tomlins

Great War Museum (Copyright Marilyn Z tomlins

Below: Poppies (plastic ones alas) in front of the museum, but a marvelous idea.

Great War Museum (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Great War Museum (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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