WW1 is still emblematic and notorious for killing on an industrial scale. What is little known outside France is that a huge area has been designated as the so-called zone rouge [red zone in English], where entry is prohibited even a 100 years after this calamitous event.
Certain sections of this demarcated area have been so thoroughly contaminated that, in all probability, they will still be designated as no-go zones in 10 000 years’ time.
This is the tale of that forbidden no-man’s land, no longer protected by stuttering machine guns but by various poisons which have contaminated the ground.
Main picture: Enter the prohibited zone / Zone interdite / Sperrgebiet – pick your language of choice – with me at your own risk
Nowadays most generals are extravagant in their use of ammunition but parsimonious with the lives of their troops. Not so during WW1. By the end of WW1, the British Commonwealth had suffered more than 1.1million deaths and countless millions more maimed and injured. Most of the deaths on the last day occurred between the Armistice being signed at 5:10am within a railway carriage in Compiegne Wood and the ceasefire coming into effect at 11am that same morning. How could 10 000 soldiers become casualties that day when the Deed of Cessation of hostilities had already been signed?
For those with a conspiratorial disposition, be assured that there was no significance in the fact that the time and date of the cessation of hostilities comprised the number eleven. This was pure happenstance. The German delegation led by a civilian Matthias Erzberger had arrived some days earlier to conclude a peace treaty. In spite of the Allies being aware that the German’s mandate was peace at any cost, the Allies under Marshal Ferdinand Foch was truculent and in no mood to make any concessions to the Germans. This truculence was to delay the peace by three days.
Main picture: Carriage in which the Deed of Armistice was signed