Wallonia found itself at the frontline of three of the most important conflicts in modern European history.
The years 1815, 1914-18 and 1940-45 saw this blameless region invaded, occupied, pillaged and finally liberated.
All is peaceful now, but history contains important lessons for future generations. Many of the scars of war have been deliberately left as they were when the guns at last fell silent.
The fields around the battlefield of Waterloo have scarcely changed in 200 years. You can walk through the forest on the border between Belgium and Germany and come across the thousands of concrete and steel tank traps that formed part of the ‘Siegfried Line’ in both World Wars.
A section of a defensive fort near Liège, which was obliterated by a single shell fired by Germany’s ‘Big Bertha’ long-range howitzer in 1914, has been made safe but scarcely altered in more than a century, to commemorate the 350 defenders who were buried beneath the shattered masonry. Along the Western Front of World War One, and the climactic Battle of the Ardennes in World War Two, tens of thousands of white-crossed gravestones honour the casualties on both sides.
Wallonia’s traumatic past is also set in stone with a phalanx of impressive memorials and thought-provoking museums dedicated to the soldiers and airmen, the brave local resistance fighters, and the thousands of civilians - men, women and children – who lost their lives during the two titanic conflicts between the warring powers.