chapter  11
10 Pages

The Devonshires Held This Trench, They Hold It Still: Cultural Landscapes of Sacrifi ce and the Problem of the Sacred Ground of the Great War 1914–1918

This paper considers the issue of the landscape of the Great War from a British perspective. This is not a purely academic question. In North America battlefi eld memorials are largely protected landscapes that are managed as cultural resources. In Europe the memorials are mainly cemeteries, and preserved battlefi eld landscape is rare (Franza and Johnson 1996). Despite, or because of, this, in Europe cultural resource management issues concerning the Great War battlefi elds are live and attracting attention. Self-defi ning descendants, descendant organizations, national governments, and professional and amateur archaeologists are all involving themselves to a greater or lesser extent, depending on their status and power, in the process. Although the landscape of the western front is now heavily populated, it is a landscape of clearance. The static warfare of 1914-1918 created a devastated landscape drastically different from any previously experienced. The millions of soldiers who lived there owned the new battlefi eld landscape, unlike the previous inhabitants or those who subsequently cleared and resettled it. The battlefi eld landscape has now almost disappeared, but it remains a heavily charged symbolic and sacred landscape for the descendants of the soldiers.