MYM: Etiquette guide for war memorials
Making the pilgrimage to the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials of the Western Front can tend to make one so overwrought with excitement that we can forget our manners. These sites stand as solemn testaments to the massive individual sacrifice made by millions of men and women and should be treated with respect. Here's a handy guide for what you should and shouldn't to when visiting war memorials and cemeteries:
Do bring an item of commemoration to leave at a gravesite or memorial if you like. Flowers, miniature flags, plaques, wreaths, photos, and personal keepsakes are some of the items visitors leave. (Commemorative items are left for as long as possible by site staff and only removed after deterioration by weather.)
Do bring cash; in Euro. Some gift shops and businesses in smaller villages only accept cash. Memorials and their interpretive centres are usually free access and run by non-profit organizations. Donations are welcome so have some small bills and coins with you.
Do bring snacks or a lunch with you. There are limited food and beverage facilities at memorial sites. If your transportation is limited or you arrive outside normal meal hours, finding a meal can be difficult in surrounding villages.
Do picnic in designated areas only. Most sites have designated picnic areas near the visitor's centre or in the parking area. The steps and lawns of the Vimy or Thiepval monument is not an appropriate place for your picnic.
Do smoke in designated areas only. Smoking is prohibited indoors and on most memorial grounds.
Do practice "leave no trace" and dispose of rubbish and recycling appropriately.
Do respect other visitors, (and guides), at the sites. Unless your child has wandered away, or some other life threatening emergency occurs, there is no need for shouting or running. If you are travelling with energetic young children, keep them under control as well.
Do not climb the Caribou. Do not climb the statues at Vimy. Do not touch the Vimy statues inappropriately.
Do not bring fake or real firearms to a war memorial. Unless you are on-duty police or military.
Do not dress up, play soldier or perform war reenactments at memorial sites. What happened on that ground was real; you don't play on graves.
Do not ride bicycles, scooters, skateboards or roller blade on the grounds of the memorial site. Bicycle racks are provided, so make sure you have a lock with you.
Do not bring pets to memorial sites, into cemeteries or visitor's centres. There are walking trails adjacent to the Vimy Memorial grounds, but pets may not enter the memorial grounds or visitor's centre.
Do not leave valuables in your vehicle; auto break-ins are common in France, even at war memorials and cemeteries.
Do use the toilet facilities provided at the sites. If they are closed, it is not okay to hide in a trench or behind the visitor's centre or guide kiosk to relive one's self. Go off-site. (Hopefully that is the last time I have to say that to a visitor).
It is important to remember why these sites are exist and respect the rules and regulations that have been put in place. They are there so that all visitors may equally pay their respects to these brave individuals. Let us not forget that soldiers still rest in the ground faced absolute horror in their last days, their final resting place should be peaceful.