Pilgrimages and tourism during the war

During the Great War several families were plunged into mourning and many villages and landscapes along hundreds of kilometres from the North Sea coastline to the Swiss border were devastated. These changes gave rise to new types of travel even before the end of the war.

Some families managed to visit the graves of their family members. These pilgrimages were authorized by the military authorities who exercised all the power in the frontline zones. These journeys were only possible when the fighting was sufficiently far away to ensure that these families could visit these graves and be guaranteed a minimum of safety or when their loved ones were buried behind the lines.

Meanwhile, the first tourists started to travel to the former battlefields to observe the consequences of the war first-hand. In France in 1917, Michelin, which manufactured tires and road maps, published its first Illustrated Michelin Guide to the Battlefields about the Marne (6-13 September 1914). Even as the war raged on not so far away, this guide allowed visitors to discover and explore the sites where the French army and the Allied forces together resisted the great German offensive in the early months of the war. After the war several new Michelin guides were published, covering various other war zones. Some were translated into English and German.

Loading, please wait...
  • Going to La Noüe, 12 May 1917, photo, Caverne du Dragon-Musée du Chemin des Dames, Aisne

    This photo documents the pilgrimage of Mrs Vernes, the mother of a French aviator whose plane was shot down in the Aisne on March 24th, 1917. She requested and obtained a pass to visit her son’s grave. At the end of the war a monument was erected by the family on the very site of the temporary grave.

  • Advertising poster for the "Illustrated Michelin Guide to the Battlefields", first quarter of the 20th century, poster, Patrimoine Historique Michelin © Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

    Michelin created a major communication campaign to highlight the publication of its Illustrated Michelin Guide to the Battlefields. This poster promotes the publication on “L’Alsace et les combats des Vosges” of 1920.

  • Illustrated Michelin Guides to the battlefields (1914-1918). The Somme, volume 1, The First Battle of the Somme (1916-1917), 1919, book, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne © Y. Medmoun

    This is an English edition of one of the Illustrated Michelin Guide to the Battlefields.

going to La Noüeadvertising posterIllstrated Michelin Guides to the battlefields. The Somme