First World War: twelve memorial sites of the Marne listed as world heritage

It is work carried out by France and Belgium since 2011 which is finally seeing the light of day. Presented for the first time in 2017, the memorial file was completed this Wednesday, September 20. The UNESCO World Heritage listing of 139 funerary and memorial sites has been recorded. Among them, twelve sites are located in the Marne.

The French Memorial to the Battles of the Marne located in Dormans is one of these sites which received inscription. Just like the Italian cemetery of Bligny in Chambrecy, the military cemetery and Russian chapel of Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand, the French national necropolis, German military cemetery and Polish military cemetery of “Bois du Puits” in Aubérive, the French communal cemetery and French chapel of Montdement-Montgivroux, the French national necropolis and German military cemetery of La Croué in Souain-Perthes-lès-Hurlus, the French national necropolis of the Opera in Souain-Perthes-lès-Hurlus, the French national necropolis of the 28th brigade “la ferme des Wacques” in Souain-Perthes-lès-Hurlus, the French National Necropolis of the monument – ossuary of the foreign legion in Souain-Perthes-lès-Hurlus, the French Ossuary of navarin: monument to the dead of the armies of Champagne, the French national necropolis of Saint-Thomas-en-Argonne – French national necropolis of the monument and finally the Gruerie ossuary in Vienne-le-Château.

“We have the legacy of their bodies in our necropolises”

This World Heritage listing should undoubtedly give a spotlight to these sites steeped in history. “Increasing attendance by 30%, that’s what we expect,” predicts Franck Lesjean, in charge of cultural affairs at the Marne department. But this inscription is above all a recognition of all these men, from five continents, who gave their lives on the battlefields. We have the legacy of their bodies in our necropolises.”

For Franck Lesjean, the ultimate recognition would be to install all the flags of nations that have lost one of their own in combat. “It would be a double recognition more than a hundred years later. It is also important for all these countries which have no other place to pay their respects to their fallen soldiers.”

Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Russia, Poland… Dozens and dozens of countries saw men fall on the battlefields of Marne during the First War. “It’s the battles of the Marnes and all the areas where there were battlefields or shell holes,” continues Franck Lesjean.

As for the Dormans Memorial, completed in 1931, it is undoubtedly the most emblematic and already attracts nearly 17,000 visitors each year. A surge in attendance should occur in 2024 with this ranking. Its location in the heart of a park was chosen by Marshal Foch and it alone commemorates the two battles of the Marne. “It’s a whole journey that leads to meditation. You have the ossuary with these 130 wooden coffins where the bones of 1,500 unknown people lie.” So far only eleven of them have been identified. But every November 11, an official ceremony takes place at the ossuary in tribute to these dead of the Great War.

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