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German war memorial about to be demolished


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#26 Siege Gunner

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 08:27 AM

Concrete Cancer (which is what the memorial appears to have in a terminal state) can strike without warning (just like the human variety) and in the same way lots of people will offer cures. If caught early enough this can be possible but I suspect that this one is too far gone.

As I said earlier, I believe the memorial was rendered or stuccoed over a reinforced concrete 'core', so much of the apparent decay may be comparatively superficial. Isn't concrete cancer caused by chemical additives that are unlikely to have been used at this date?

#27 egbert

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 09:01 AM

I think at the end all comes down to money and that will not be found, neither by France nor by Germany ( We are currently shifting our spare money to Greece for other than WW1 purposes :devilgrin: ). End of the story.

#28 centurion

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 09:48 AM

As I said earlier, I believe the memorial was rendered or stuccoed over a reinforced concrete 'core', so much of the apparent decay may be comparatively superficial. Isn't concrete cancer caused by chemical additives that are unlikely to have been used at this date?

Concrete cancer can be caused by a whole range of things including using unsuitable agregate in the first place.[For example shingle that contains salts] A lot is caused by chlorines and other pollutants in the atmosphere that are absorbed by the concrete over time and migrate over the decades until they reach and react with the steel reinforcing. This can be exacerbated if the original builder cut corners and used an unsuitable mix in the first place.or left things like damp coursing out.

My first experience of the phenomena came when part of the curtain wall of the hotel I was staying in in Doha fell off. The original constructors had saved money by using local sand rather than importing proper construction grade material, this left the concrete very vulnerable to absorption of pollutants (and in an oil producing and refining area there were plenty about. Most of the early reinforced concrete buildings in this area had to be replaced with ones using adequate material (and yes there are people who make a good living selling sand to the Arabs).

#29 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:53 PM

Good evening All,

I visited the cemetery again a few hours ago and am pleased to report that the memorial appears not to have deteriorated since I last visited in 2010. These photos were taken late this afternoon:


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#30 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:58 PM

The memorial occupies a central position in the largely civilian cemetery, with mainly French military graves at the rear (but including some Belgian, British, Rumanian and Russian), covering the 3 conflicts: 1870, WW1 and WW2:

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#31 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:07 PM

And viewed from lower down the cemetery:

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#32 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:15 PM

It is very much a living cemetery, if that's not a contradiction; with several tombs open and new graves dug, awaiting the newly dead, when I was there. There were several people visiting with at least one interested in the memorial, so if it is retained it has to be made safe or permanetly "fenced off". Here are some more views:

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Note the area of infant graves behind the memorial; if it is demolished these might be damaged, another point in favour of its retention

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#33 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:18 PM

There only remains one portion of inscription on the whole memorial:

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#34 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:36 PM

Should it be preserved ? I think so but not restored to its original state; I think we have more chance in persuading the relevant authorities to make it safe and retain it as a memorial to the three conflicts that affected the Pays Sedanais so dramatically. A memorial to the combatants and civilians killed, with panels describing the three conflicts in the locality, with a fourth celebrating the peace France and Germany have shared since 1945, perhaps with the two countries' flags and that of the EU. It could be done for the centenary. The cemetery itself is rich in that history.

Why not restored to its original state ?
  • It wasn't designed as a separate memorial but the focal point of the German military section within the civilian cemetery. After WW1 the bodies were re-interred elsewhere; in WW2 it was re-used but again the bodies were re-interred post-war to the beautiful German cemetery on the other side of the Meuse at Noyers-Pont-Maugis. I suspect it was only its reinforced concrete construction that stopped it from been moved or demolished then. There is only a partial inscription on it.
  • The French locally suffered greatly in the three conflicts: the Camp de la MisÚre in 1870, the thousands of deaths through forced labour iin WW1 and the deportations and Gestapo executions in WW2. It would be difficult politically for the local mayor to push for full restoration to its former glory:
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#35 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:43 PM

To reinforce that I think the best chance is in a memorial along the lines described (or that by Mick - "Siege Gunner"), the memorial photo appears in the local tourist guide to the three conflicts, which has a foreword by the mayor.
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#36 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:48 PM

Whatever happens, and I do hope that it is preserved, Sedan St Charles is well worth a visit.

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#37 khaki

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:55 PM

I presume the Sedan Council had an engineer's report on the structural integrity of the memorial together with costings, it would be interesting to see what they conclude.

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#38 egbert

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 08:31 PM

Steve, thanks for all the picture taking effort.

#39 centurion

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:18 PM

Good evening All,

I visited the cemetery again a few hours ago and am pleased to report that the memorial appears not to have deteriorated since I last visited in 2010. These photos were taken late this afternoon:
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Thats not surface stucco deteriorating - thats deep down Concrete Cancer. Was it les Freres Trotter et Daley who quoted for fixing it?




#40 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 08:40 AM

Good morning Egbert, Centurion and all,

I'll leave the engineering to the experts and as they use so much reinforced concrete in France I'm sure they'll have experts. I am equally certain that if the municipal authority has received costings then they will be from a respected source. I also know that the more people that make representations from various countries, then the more chance that the relevant bodies will think it is money worth spending.

#41 centurion

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:47 AM

Good morning Egbert, Centurion and all,

I'll leave the engineering to the experts and as they use so much reinforced concrete in France I'm sure they'll have experts. I am equally certain that if the municipal authority has received costings then they will be from a respected source. I also know that the more people that make representations from various countries, then the more chance that the relevant bodies will think it is money worth spending.


When I was a management consultant I was frequently hauled of my main work (large systems implementation in the energy sector) to assist in things like district auditor's investigations on procurement in local authorities in England and Wales (I had had some previous experience of this so my name was on a list). Respected source was not how I would have described some bidders. They may of course "order these things better in France" but some how I have doubts.

#42 mebu

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 02:27 PM

Interesting thread.

It certainly is not what became known as "concrete cancer",which is an expansive reaction between high alkali cement and certain silicates in the aggregates.All but unknown in UK and France until 1970's when cases came to light after alkali levels changed with cement production. Nor is it chloride attack or anything to do with "additives".

Looking at the photos.....as a concrete technologist who made a living out of this subject (hence my interest and continuous trawl for info on WW1 structures)it looks like there are 2 or 3 factors at work, all of which one could expect to see in a construction of that age.

Is it repairable? Certainly, if the local authority has a very deep purse. Any repairs are unlikely to be carried out by a local builder. As in the UK, there are specialist companies who work to codes...nowadays ENs or Euronorms, and give insured guarantees. This would be preceded by a full survey and assessment. Very expensive, often only government departments can afford it for hopitals, motorway bridges etc.

I hope it is saved, but doubt if Sedan will want to finance it.

Regards, Peter (Fellow, Institute of Concrete Technology)

#43 egbert

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 02:41 PM

Thanks Peter for your expert statement. Finally something "concrete" (oops), instead of wild guessing. With that I believe the cost will overrule all best wishes to preserve this monument. In the distance I see the wrecker ball swinging already.....and the brochure "Circuits de Memoire" , page 37 (see post #36), being reprinted.

#44 Siege Gunner

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 02:53 PM

'Ancient monuments' are often stabilised and preserved in a semi-ruined state, but I presume that the location and symbolic importance of this memorial rules out that option.

#45 truthergw

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 03:14 PM

All concerned seem to agree that there are no cheap options. Given the financial straits of most local authorities and recalling what the monument actually memorialises, I think it would be very hard for the responsible authority to garner any support for spending more than the minimum. I assume that that would be demolition but perhaps some minimal mothballing could be applied on the Micawber principle.

#46 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 03:24 PM

Good afternoon,

It has stood for nearly 100 years, if an engineer confirmed it wasn't in danger of collapse, a cheaper option (i.e. within whatever budget maybe avaliable) would be a cosmetic tidy up and a permanent and more aesthetically pleasing barrier around the main structure.

The existing hazard tape and portable barriers are positioned very close to the structure and are what the cemetery authorities use for marking off newly dug graves etc. whilst they are filled.

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If you look at the second photo in post 33, the memorial is built on a raised platform which appears relatively intact (except for the removal of the plaques from the top of the "buttresses"). There are no new graves to either side of the memorial so there is room for display panels etc and foot access from the main pathways. A safe and fenced off memorial could be the focal point for a tactful display, ready for the centenary.

#47 gryphon

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 10:41 PM

It certainly is not what became known as "concrete cancer",which is an expansive reaction between high alkali cement and certain silicates in the aggregates.


On the basis of the evidence available I think Mebu's analysis is spot on.

I thought it might be useful to add a little detail on why I believe the evidence is that "concrete cancer" is not the culprit here.

Although I am less specialised than Mebu I can attest that the term "concrete cancer" is used almost exclusively to refer to the reaction he describes, which is generally abbreviated to ASR. The analogy to cancer seems to be used because this is a progressive deep-seated phenomenon in which the concrete undergoes an expansion that causes it to fracture into progressively smaller chunks. The typical appearance of a structure that would arouse suspicions of being subject to ASR can be seen in the attached link.

ASR

Unfortunately it would seem that this monument has reached the end of the natural life accorded to it by the particular combination of materials, and maintenance regime in its particular environment. One might speculate that the inconsistency of using concrete in preference to stone to achieve neo-classical details is an indication of a cost pressure which might also have led to economies in expensive cement content and consequent sub-optimum impermeability of the concrete for the environment, which may not have been understood by those commissioning a monument within a budget.

Although repair might be a theoretical option, if funded, it would demand very careful specification and execution to ensure a result even approaching monumental standards of durability. Unfortunately there are many examples where lack of experience by specifiers, inadequate understanding of proprietary repair materials, or sub-optimum workmanship have led to repairs not achieving the expectations of those funding them.

I hope this is a positive contribution to this interesting thread

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#48 egbert

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 09:43 AM

Thanks for your further expertise Gryphon.

Well looking at this ancient post war picture, what do I take from that:
despite the Versailles Treaty Article 225, obliging France to care and maintain for German War graves and cemeteries, these graves are not cared for at all. So maybe this picture represents an early indication to what will happen 2012 with this monument. Time ruled against the monument from the very first moment.
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#49 Chris_Baker

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 10:21 AM

Serious question: was it cared for by the Sedan authorities (that is, properly maintained) until 1940?

#50 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 11:44 AM

Chris,

At some time between the wars the WW1 graves were re-interred elsewhere. The plot was then re-used when the Germans occupied the area from May 1940 onwards. It would be interesting to find a date for Egbert's photo, not only for regards to the maintenance issue but because in it the German plot seems to extend beyond the memorial itself, with a rear wall and large cross. I can't read the inscription above the cross, which should confirm whether it is indeed part of the plot or just the rest of the cemetery.

On a separate but related issue, I visited the ossuary at nearby Bazeilles yesterday, which contains the bones of the French marines and Bavarian troops that died there 31/08/1870-01/09/1870.
The dead of both sides were treated with similar respect in 1870 and have been ever since by the people of sedan. The ossuary became a popular postcard view to send home for German soldiers of WW1 and WW2. The Bavarians occupy 7 chambers to the left, the French, 7 chambers to the right. The only "alteration" was WW2 when some of the occupying German soldiers took exception to having the bones of their predecessors on view and concreted over them or placed them in large sarcophagi. Today 6 of the 7 Bavarian chambers contain Sarcophagi and 1, old battlefield crosses; The French 7 remain the same with a central aisle lined by skulls, behind which are piled bones and remnants of uniforms.