Even today French locals , other Europeans and Americans find themselves drawn to the Meuse-Argonne region of France. Once drawn there, many return time and again; often working on a multi-year research or preservation project. In this irregular interview series, the webmaster hopes to introduce readers to some of these individuals and their labors of love.
1) What are your name, nationality and occupation?
Wim Degrande, Belgium, account manager
2) Which languages do you speak, and how fluently do you speak them?
Dutch/Flemisch (native), French (fluent), English (fluent), German (fluent)
3) When was your first visit to the Meuse-Argonne?
4) When did you really find yourself drawn to the Meuse-Argonne?
1996 after visiting some deep mining galleries on la Fille Morte
5) What is your primary interest in the region?
History of WW1 of course, mainly from German point of view, but also nature and wildlife and local history
6) Approximately how many times and/or how often do you visit the Meuse-Argonne?
Approximately every 1,5-2 month(s), some years ago almost every month
7) What do you do when you visit?
Specific research as a preparation for an article or book: locating certain spots, retrieving remains of cemeteries and “Lager” (i.e. camps), locating tunnels and mining galleries
8) What research or preservation projects are you working on currently?
After two books on the Argonne (see also www.argonne1418.be) none for the moment. I write smaller articles from time to time. But a study on the “Brunhildstellung” is slowly coming. I’m also thinking of a photobook on the Argonne with lots of archive images and actual photographs.
9) What research or preservation projects have you completed in the past?
A list of articles for WFA Belgium and DEA, three books: “Weathered Witness” (2007), “Feldgrau in de Argonne” (2010) and “Tussen Aire en Aisne 1918” (2013, a book on the liberation of the Argonne, also mainly from German point of view)
10) What is your favorite spot in the Meuse-Argonne, and why?
Meurissons ravine and Bolante, just for the atmosphere and the silent witnesses…
11) History aside, what is your favorite thing to do in the Meuse-Argonne?
Enjoying the nature and silence of the region, taking some breath by walking and visiting the region
12) Schedule permitting, would you consider being a tour guide for individuals or groups traveling to the sector?
That depends on the situation and/or group/individual. I live about 375 km away from the Argonne, so it is not a flexible situation. I prefer guiding a small group of 3-5 persons, rather than a big group or bus. But I do not guide often as this is not my main activity. I prefer doing research and writing, rather than guiding.
13) How can readers contact you for assistance or for more details?
By email: [email protected]
14) Any other comments?