Friday, 3 July 2015

Battlefield tourism: Bastogne and La Gleize

As part of our "Belgian Tour" my friend and I took a road trip from Brussels to visit the sites of the 1944 Ardennes offensive. We stopped at two sites, La Gleize and Bastogne.

La Gleize

La Gleize is a cosy little village upon a hill crest in the Ardennes. This was the furthest point where SS-Kampfgruppe Peiper managed to penetrate in 1944 before running out of supplies and becoming encircled. After severe fighting the remaining Germans legged it during the night, abandoning some 150 armoured vehicles!

I didn't get the chance to take too many pictures of the area surrounding La Gleize. Suffice to say, with steep ridges, narrow roads and heavy forests the area most definitely wasn't suited to armoured warfare in December.

I quite liked the little museum at La Gleize, which was nicely focused on events and units fighting around La Gleize. The items were put out on display in a very casual and interesting way and a lot of the objects had actually been recovered from the vicinity of the city. This included a number of "complete" German uniforms found in a nearby attic as well as King Tiger that the previous owner of the museum had purchased from the Americans for a bottle of Cognac!

Myself in front of the King Tiger and the museum

Model of German positions around La Gleize

King Tigers in approximately 1:300 scale

War-weary German

US rations and supplies

Jacket of an American bomber aviator

Lots of missions flown

Airborne brigade HQ equipment

A happy tanker - thank god for air drops!

More krauts

American vandalism

Handy in a fight

US airborne "scooter" and light howitzer

Armoured jeep

US war photographer and "neutralized" enemy MG

Storming the building

Engineering equipment (check out the chainsaw)

Bloody fingerprints on a gas mask case


In Bastogne we visited the Bastogne War Museum, which had opened in 2014. The museum was quite large and had had a lot of money put in it, with an ample sprinkling of multimedia used to support a material rich and visually spectacular design. Although stunning, I was a bit disappointed in the museum, which seemed to lack focus. The tour was too broad in trying to explain the full background and course of the war and seemed to try to cater to all visitor groups (schools, casual tourists, military buffs, etc.). I also found it annoying that I had no control over my audioguide, which would play certain clips whenever you were close enough to the corresponding "waypoint".

Sherman was there to greet visitors as soon as they entered the exhibition

The exhibition was narrated by four characters: a Belgian child, local teacher, German officer and US paratrooper

My tour mate tried to enlist in some foreign volunteer force

Home-made "resistance" pistols

Hetzer. I didn't feel bad about the paint job on my minis after seeing the camo pattern on her up close.

German grenades

One of the multimedia shows incorporating video, audio and a mock forest where you are being fired upon

One of the most interesting "items" in the museum the aptly named Sherman tank "Absentee". The tank had been hit in the side with the enemy shell detonating on the opposite wall of the tank. The battle damage was nicely visible and permitted a new angle at the insides of "The Burning Grave".

Opposite side of the hull from where the shot had penetrated

For me the 17th Airborne was a new acquaintance. Previously I was familiar of only the 82nd and 101st.

Post-war recycling of armaments
A pre-Cold War booklet: "Our Red Army ally"


The end of the Bastogne museum was quite "heavy" and immersive. Besides figures on the total body count, there were mines embedded into the floor and gravestones coupled with screens would recount the life story of a number of deceased (men, women, children, soldiers, elderly, etc.).

A mine that can't be detected with minesweepers

Graves recounting the human cost

The museum show was full of all sorts of interesting goodies. The following custom-made WW2 Playmobils really caught my eye. If anyone is interested, they can be commissioned from Mr. Evrard (

No comments:

Post a Comment