The area of north eastern France we journeyed through on the few few days of our European road trip is battlefield country. A lot of fighting took place during various wars in that part of Europe, none more so (I believe) than in the First World War. As we drove through the countryside (avoiding the toll motorways to see more of rural France) we kept on passing war cemeteries featuring countless graves of the fallen. Most of these were French cemeteries, each grave marked with what appeared to be a simple wooden cross. After we’d passed several, I decided that the next one we saw I’d pull over at to take a look around.
As it happened, the next war cemetery we came across was American. America is not a country known for doing things by halves, so every grave was marble, the gardens immaculate. Fittingly, as we arrived it began to rain.
You can just about see the white drops of rain in the image.
At the centre of the cemetery was a large eagle-based sundial. Behind it – at the back of the cemetery – is a chapel overlooking the countryside, proudly flying the American flag.
Branching out from the eagle to the left and right were two other pathways, each with a sculpture at the far end.
The sheer amount of gravestones here was staggering. It’s really hard to comprehend how many lost lives you are seeing at any one time.
Every grave carries a name. Seeing a name somehow makes it more real.
Having found this particular angle, I took several shots and processed them in a few different ways.
This can all pretty much only be described as too much death.
Way too much.
The chapel space at one end of the cemetery proudly flew the American flag. Flags can so often come across as jingoistic but in places like this it just adds to the sombreness.
The close up shots are one thing, but it is the wider shots that take in many, many crosses that are the more powerful.
It was a grey, overcast day when we visited, but once in a while the sun would come out. When it did, I liked the effect of the shadows of the crosses on the grass.
It also works quite well in higher contrast monochrome.
And indeed, after the sun went back in again the shading was strong enough to look interesting.
As we were walking around, a bunny came running through the graves. I tried, and failed, to grab a shot of him but managed to luckily get some decent shots as I tried.
As we walked back towards the entrance, I continued to get some perspective shots of the crosses.
The final few images I took were more wider shots, showing the sheer scale of the place.
According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, the remains of 4,153 identified soldiers are interred at St Mihiel. 4,153. 4,153 lives lost thanks to humanity’s inherent disability to get on with each other.
War, eh. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
A Taste of Europe