Memento belli


My name’s Chris Gehrz. I’m professor of history at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. In the process of teaching a travel course on World War I and developing a new class on World War II, I’ve photographed a fair number of military cemeteries, war monuments, and veterans memorials in Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, and here in Minnesota. While I occasionally write about such commemoration at my regular blog, The Pietist Schoolman, I thought that a photoblog might be a more effective way to share what I’ve seen.

Aside from giving some context for what you see in each photo, I’ll try to refrain from imposing too much interpretation and let the images speak for themselves. But if I were to suggest an overriding theme for Memento belli, it’d be this:

Sincere and cynical, sublime and mundane, inspiring and mournful, patriotic and embittered β€” 20th century memorials are as complex as the wars they commemorate.

I’ll focus primarily on the two World Wars, though from time to time I may also post a few photos related to the American Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War, and other conflicts.

Creative Commons LicenseMemento belli by Christopher Gehrz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Our header image comes from a photo taken by my colleague Sam Mulberry during our tour of the Somme battlefield in northern France, near the village of Beaumont Hamel. Unless you noticed the small British battlefield cemetery in the distance (straight down from “belli” in the blog title), you might never know that, on July 1, 1916, this would have been the vantage point of a German machine gunner as he pumped thousands of bullets into a wave of advancing British troops. But if you were to visit that British cemetery β€” or any of the others that trace what used to be No Man’s Land on the Somme β€” you would no doubt find several gravestones with this inscription:

Lest we forget

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