river meuse

10

GRAND HOTEL REGNIER

The Grand Hotel Regnier is part of a cluster of hotels and restaurants alongside the Meuse. The first tourist activity in the vicinity goes back to the inn of ferryman Ferdinand Martinot in 1976. This hotel, originally called the Grand Hotel de Waulsort, was built in 1904, but was taken over by the Regnier family in 1914 and was at that point dubbed Grand Hotel Regnier. Because of the good railroad connections and its location in a green environment alongside the enchanting river Meuse, lots of tourists were drawn to the region and catering businesses emerged left and right. In 1934 eleven hotels, ten pubs, twelve shops and twelve crafts stores were counted. The Grand Hotel Regnier is said to be the first hotel in Europe to offer the luxury of own underground parking. As the buildings got older and the tourist sector shifted to travel by car and by plane, the region lost its appeal until during the economical crisis of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s business folded alltogether and Grand Hotel Regnier was forced to close the doors permanently.

Dutch girls from Zeeland protesting against Belgian annexation plans, the Hague 1919

Following the end of WWI Belgium accused the Netherlands of collaborating with Germany, due to letting German troops retreat through the Netherlands in 1918 and giving asylum to Emperor Wilhelm II. This was despite that fact that the Netherlands had also sheltered half a million Belgian refugees during the war. Belgium wanted the river Meuse as an eastern border and to annex Zeelandic Flanders (part of the Netherlands since the Dutch revolt) so the Netherlands could no longer close the Scheldt and the port of Antwerp. The plan failed and post-war relations between the two countries were chilly until the late 1930’s.

anonymous asked:

Hey Maybe I'm stupid and just haven't noticed something... but why is 1953')s title is... well 1953?

That’s not a stupid question at all! I never said what the title meant because I was curious how long it would take for someone to ask (childish, I know. Sorry). It’s actually quite a fascinating story which inspired me to write this fic in the first place. 

See, I live in Holland, which is situated below sea leven for 20%. Now we don’t have to fear that we’ll drown one day because we are the best country in the world when it comes to protecting ourselves from the water. We had a lot of practice over the centuries but our biggest achievement happend when we made “de deltawerken” (aka the deltaworks). It’s a huge  amount of projects consisting out of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees, and storm surge barriers that protect us from the water. Most of these are situated in Zeeland, a provence  where the estuaries of the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt are.

This is one of them 

Now we built these delta works (which are btw along with the Zuiderzee Works, declared to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.) because of 

The North Sea flood of 1953

which yes, does deserve to be in a bold headline because 1836 people died, 100.000 people lost everything they owned and many of those were traumatized for life (I know that first hand, my grandmother was one of the first aiders who helped immeadeatly after it took place). That’s an awful lot of people for a very tiny country. In dutch it’s called “de watersnood ramp”. 

A huge northwesterly storm hit the main land on the night between 31 january -1 february, and combined with springtide it caused the water levels to rise 5.6 metres above normal sealevel on some points (that’s two stories high, it’s a lot) while the land behind the dykes was already one or several metres below sea leavel itself.   

Communication was pretty hard back in the day and many victims were stuck on the rooftops of houses for up to multiple days. It looked like this; 

over 30.000 animals drowned 

Anyway, I’ve always been fascinated by the lake and the slytherin dungeons being under water and how windows would hold that (I mean the windows in Hogwarts have been there since forever but glass that could handle that kind of pressure hasn’t been around for very long), and this idea of the windows breaking has been in my mind for a long time now. I’m glad to finally tell this story, not only that of the loyalty of slytherins, but too that of all those people who dedicate their live to making sure I and all my friends don’t drown, and to honour the thought of all those who lost their lives in the disaster that finally woke our government up. 

That’s why my fic over flooding is called 1953.

That was probably a wayyy longer answer than expected but hey, at least you learned something, and now you know who to call when your country floods because of climate change

2

Today, a Hundred Years ago the German army launched one of the biggest military operations of the Great War. The Battle of Verdun. The objetive was to swarm french positions in order to lure them to commit mistakes, and therefore, advance positions along the Meuse River. During the first stages of the Battle, the germans achieved succes, but as it endured, the french army, under command of general Joseph Joffre was able to regain its positions. But no big advances were made, but the human losses and the moral impact was massive. Over 2.390.000 men were mobilized prior to the Battle, 1,250,000 on the german side and 1,140,000 on the french side. Almost a million casualties were counted, on which approximately 305,000 were dead.

May our remembrance honor those who gave their lives in this Battle (and this war) that changed the world.

Special thanks to @janwilhelms for the reminder.

At the pictures:
1 - German soldiers charge from their trenches to face the french, Verdun, 1916.
2 - French soldiers take positions in a bombarded trench at the first stages of the Battle of Verdun, 1916.

Two Armies at Verdun - The French

 Poilus

“No battle in history,” wrote British historian Alistair Horne, “was to be more of a ‘soldier’s battle’ than Verdun, and it was to be these humbler creations - more than the Joffres and Falkenhayns - that were to be its principal actors.”  The clash between France and Germany was the war’s principal conflict, one that had already been horrendously bloody in 1914 and 1915.  At Verdun in 1916, however, both armies were at their peak fighting strength.  Here the final death struggle between them began.  Here is the state of the French Army as it prepared to defend Verdun.

Verdun in 1916 should have been the strongest point of the Entente line.  Jutting out across the Meuse in a salient, it was reputedly unassailable, the greatest fortress on earth.  Its history as a strongpoint dated back to the Thirty Years War.  Afterwards, Vauban, that amazing French engineer, had turned it into the key strongpoint of Louis XIV’s France, besieged time and time again by forces from across the border.  In 1870, it was the last border fortress to hold out against the combined German armies. 

In 1914, it was all the stronger.  These were not the featureless, flat plains of Flanders and Champagne.  The hills bordering the river Meuse turned the area into a natural fortress, forming four natural lines of defense on the right bank of the river, which sloped gently towards the Germans, forcing them to attack uphill under withering fire, while steep ravines on the reverse sides allowed the defenders to take cover and ambush the enemy.  The crest of each hill was studded with forts and bunkers: twenty major forts, forty smaller ones.  On the Right Bank, they laid roughly in three rings.  On the outermost rings, Forts Vaux, Moulainville, and Douaumont guarded the area, then Tavannes and Souville forts, then, on the innermost ring around the sleepy little town of Verdun itself, Forts Belrupt, St. Michel, and Belleville. The Crown Prince’s Fifth  Army, attacking at the beginning of the war, smashed itself like waves on rock at Verdun, the unassailable fortresses forming a vital anchor and pivot for the French Army as it retreated towards Paris.

The lay of the land at Verdun. The pentagonal markings represent forts.

Of the Verdun forts, the key was Douaumont, north of the city, on the Right Bank.  At an elevation of 1,200 feet, Douaumont looked down upon all else, dominating the terrain.  In fact, each fort had been expertly built to support the others.  If enemy infantry survived long enough to reach the safety of one fort’s glacis, the fort’s neighbors were sited to sweep them off with machine gun fire.  For heavier fire power, each had either a heavy 155-mm howitzer, or twin short-barreled 75-mm guns, housed in retractable turrets on the top of the fort, invulnerable to all but direct hits.  Machine guns and ingeniously placed blockhouses defended every side of each fort, while the larger ones housed a company of infantry safely inside.  Furthermore, since the war had moved on, the French had built three trench lines on the Right Bank in front of the forts. 

But since the August and September of 1914, Verdun had been one of the quietest sectors of the Western Front. The population of the town itself had shrunk from 15,000 to just 3,000, but those who stayed had never had it so good, selling their produce to voracious poilus.  Besides the occasional shell, the soldiers had little to complain about either.  When asked by a visiting officer why the front-line had no communication trenches dug up to it so that troops could approach in safety, an old veteran demurred: “It doesn’t matter.  One can pass very easily, the Germans don’t shoot.”

French high command, GHQ, had noted the lack of operations at Verdun, and one staff officer had the bright idea of robbing Peter to pay Paul by stripping the forts of their guns, to be sent to other fronts.  General Dubail, commanding Army Group East, allowed it, though the Governor of Verdun promptly objected, only to be promptly sacked, succeeded by an elderly artilleryman called Herr, who did nothing as the world’s mightiest strongpoint was turned into a gaping weak area in the lines: in the words of one French military historian, it was “an imprudence difficult to quantify.”

In February 1916, the Crown Prince’s army amassed to make the French pay for this imprudence.  Only one French corps stood in the way of the Germans’ five.  This was General Paul Chrétien’s XXX Corps, “comprising, (from the Meuse eastwards) the 72nd Division (General Bapst), the 51st (General Boullangé), and the 14th (General Crepey) which was to play only a minor role in the battle, with the 37th (General de Bonneval) moving up in reserve.”  It was a hodge-podge formation, and many important sections of the line were held by the Territorials, elderly reservists from Brittany and Picardy, including Douaumont and some of the other forts.  Many others were troops who had never seen much action, or “old sweats” inclined to try and avoid it.  Behind them were North Africans in their red fezzes and khaki-clad Senegalese tirailleurs

The exception were two battalions Chasseurs, elite light troops commanded by Colonel Émile Driant. Driant’s men were dour and a little ill-disciplined, but excellent in a scrap.  They would make a vital difference over the next few days.  Driant himself had been a vociferous critic of the government’s policy at Verdun, proclaiming in the Assembly that by taking away guns they were condemning him and his men to death.

The French soldier of 1916 was a far cry from the neophyte “pioupiou’ of 1914 in his dashing red and blue uniform.  Now they were called “poilus”, “hairy ones”, many sporting tremendous beards.  In place of the old kepi they were equipped with steel Adrian helmets, a step ahead of their German counterparts, most of whom still wore protection-less leather tops.  Gone too was the old uniform, replaced with a duller “horizon-blue”, between blue and grey.  In its pristine state it looked finer than any other, British troops noting what a morale booster it was to see marching up to relieve them, while after a few days in the mud it blended in as well as any other in the foggy North European climate.  Usually, though, men cut a more ragged appearance.  Driant and his Chasseuers in the Bois des Caures covered themselves in sheepskins and rags, barely identifiable as soldiers at all.  Despite their outward appearance, they were trench warfare veterans who never neglected to put a cork in their rifle barrel, to keep the moisture out. 

Most were men between twenty-five and thirty, who had seen combat and been patched up a few times, reservists in their forties with wives and children at home, or new recruits of the 1916 class, aged eighteen or twenty.  Unlike their enemies or their British allies, they were sloppy trench diggers; no point in getting comfortable, because the rest of the homeland still had to be liberated. The ordinary joys of life were letters from home, a few glasses of pinard, the army’s red plonk, and a nice cat-nap in a hole dug into the trench side (a practice rigorously banned in the German and British armies). 

Britons occupying portions of the French line were often aghast at the squalid conditions.  The French accepted them with a little Gallic humor: “Our flooded trenches aren’t so bad,” they joked, “as long as the U-Boats don’t torpedo them!”  Outside of the line, the poilu marched everywhere on his feet, weighed down with two-blankets, a groundsheet, his spare boots, a shovel or a pair of wire-cutters, a mess-tin and a large ration pail, two litres of pinard (hopefully), and his heavy great-coat, which no French soldier was ever seen without, no matter the weather.  It totaled up to 85 pounds.  Men who feel over in the slimy trenches needed the help of a few friends to get back up!

Interestingly, despite being the only republican state of the major combatants, a major gap existed between French men and their officers.  Bivoucaing, officers paid little attention to their men’s welfare, taking the nice areas for themselves and letting the lads sort themselves out.  Signs found at detraining railway stations said it all:

W.C. pour MM. les officiers

Cabinets pour les sous-officiers,

Latrines pour la troupe

French officers made up for disinterest outside of the battle with unequaled courage during the fighting, leading from the front, a practice that meant that by the end of the 1914, more than 50% of the pre-war French officer corps was dead.  Courage was reinforced by severe discipline.  The death penalty was pulled out for trivial cases, and the French Army composed penal battalions out of units guilty of cowardice in battle.  At at least one point during the Battle of Verdun, a French unit machine-gunned fleeing African troops. 

Outside of combat, there was not much respite either.  French soldiers rarely received leave, permission, and when they did usually it was such a hassle to get home and back again in time that they could not go anyway.  One more small comfort, then, was a soldier’s “godmother”, a woman who volunteered to write to an unknown soldier and send him knitted clothes and gifts, and perhaps a little company when he was home on leave.  One enterprising French soldier managed to get himself 44 of these marraines, deserting when he found he never had enough time on leave for all of them!

If the French soldier’s existence was hardly comfortable in 1916, at least his morale was high.  They were fighting to protect their homes and families; many of them were fighting to liberate their homes fallen behind the enemy’s lines.  Verdun was the peak of the war for them, no longer greenhorns, not yet war-weary.  The steel had been tempered, at Verdun it would show what it could do.

May 7, 1916 - Verdun: Germans Capture Côte 304

Pictured - French troops take cover during a bombardment on Côte 304.

The battle of Verdun concentrated from February to May on the Left Bank of the Meuse River in front of the city of Verdun, in particular on the French positions located on a 295-meter tall hill called Le Mort-Homme, and another called Côte 304, which gave the French a vantage point and guarded the ridges where the French artillery was concentrated.

The two armies had been fighting over Mort-Homme for months by May, with the French holding the crest while Germans swarmed on the lower parts of the hill.  Trenches switched hands daily, regiments from both armies were decimated in days and replaced with new ones fresh for the slaughter.  In May, 500 German heavy guns opened up on Côte 304 for two days and one night, smashing in French positions poorly prepared without any deep shelters.  In one battalion, only three men survived, the rest of their comrades buried alive.  For those who survived, no food or ammunition came for days.

Reinforcements still filtered up to the French lines, but no one knew where to go or what to do. “Nobody knew exactly the location of the mixed up regiments,” wrote a French company commander, “It was impossible to move.  Orders had pushed up men on top of men and set up a living wall against the monstrous German avalanche.”

France’s living wall could not hold out forever.  On May 7, Côte 304 fell to the Germans, who immediately requested double tobacco rations to cover up the odor of corpses.  Some 10,000 French soldiers had fallen for this tiny corner of their nation.  The capture of Côte 304 marked the first penetration of the “Line of Resistance” which French commander General Henri Petain had set up upon taking command.  With Côte 304 fallen, Mort-Homme stood open to German flanking attacks.