The Museum of the Battle of the Bulge

Hetzer (2)
Hetzer (1)
Dioramas museum (1)
Dioramas museum (3)
Dioramas museum (2)
Dioramas museum (5)

A small collection of the beautiful dioramas in the museum

The Museum of the Battle of the Bulge
Le Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes
Nederlandse versie

At the end of April (2024) we (family incl. grandchildren) planned a short holiday in the Ardennes. The Center Parcs park is a 30-minute drive from Bastogne and I thought I would like to visit it, but as is often the case with children, things are not going as you planned. If children are having a good time, so have the (grand)parents. Bastogne didn't happen (yet), but I visited the town of La Roche des Ardennes, which is located in the middle of the area of the Battle of the Bulge and was hit hard. We had chosen La Roche for some shopping, strolling  and a lunch and was not prepared to find a museum, Le Musee de la Bataille des Ardennes and what a museum it is.

Briefly about La Roche des Ardennes. In 1944-1945, the town of La Roche was largely destroyed and 114 inhabitants lost their lives. The German Battle of the Bulge began on 16 December 1944. In the night of 18 to 19 December, the first troop movements were in the vicinity of La Roche-en-Ardenne. The city was then a stronghold of the Americans, but on 21 December the Germans took possession of the city. From 23 December onwards the US Air Force bombed German positions in the Ardennes, particularly in La Roche, where the bridge over the Ourthe was still intact. On 11 January 1945, La Roche was liberated, but the fighting continued for another five days in the surrounding villages. During the Battle of the Bulge, 90% of La Roche was destroyed and 114 civilians were killed. The Museum of the Battle of the Bulge is dedicated to the battle for and liberation of La Roche and nearby villages on the left bank of the Ourthe during the Allied counteroffensive between 3 and 16 January 1945. The village is part of the Liberation Route Europe.

The Museum of the Battle of the Bulge of La Roche opened its doors on July 1, 1993. It is the result of the passion of the founder Michel Bouillon and his youngest son Gilles for everything related to the history of the Second World War and especially during the terrible battle of the Bulge.
Michel Bouillon was 12 years old in 1944 and very marked by all the events, especially by what his whole family experienced from the evacuation in May 1940 to the liberation of his native village by the Americans in September 1944. After his apprenticeship as a butcher, he moved to La Roche in 1955 and opened the Boucherie Bouillon, currently located on the Place du Marché. In the 1960s, he began to collect objects and military equipment from the Second World War. Gilles, his youngest son, born in 1967, helped him with this from the age of ten. This is how the beautiful collection that can be seen in the museum was created, with special attention paid to the important role that British soldiers played in the liberation of the Ardennes. Of course, attention is also paid to the American and German armies, each with their own weapons and vehicles. The museum covers almost 1,500 m2, spread over three floors. The visitor will see more than 120 dolls dressed in original American, English, German and even Scottish military uniforms with matching packs, in addition to uniforms donated to the museum by veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. The visitor will also find an important collection of light and heavy weapons, personal items and equipment found on the battlefield, some 20 military vehicles and the famous Enigma decoding machine of Polish origin. A photo collection depicts the daily life of the soldiers on the battlefield. The museum also displays wall maps of the different phases of the Battle of the Bulge, as well as a film with images of the liberation of La Roche in Januari 1945.
The collection is spread over three floors, where every nook and cranny has been used to exhibit everything interesting. More than 120 dolls in relevant uniforms, but also dioramas showing how the local population fared during the hard battle. In addition, a nice amount of vehicles (20) and motorcycles, where to my surprise there was also a complete M-4 half track with M-55 quad machine gun - I have the Tamiya model in my collection - and a very impressive collection of weapons (light and heavy), lots of photos and personal equipment/objects. The fact that there is so much to see was a pleasant surprise for me. It is not the impression you get if you look at the front of the mueseum. Speaking of the front, you really can't miss the museum in the street, there is a Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer in front of it at the time of writing (May 2024).   
I really walked through the museum with great interest and saw a lot of beautiful things. The museum itself gives 2 hours for it, but you can easily spend much longer there without getting bored. If you are in the area or following the Liberation Route Europe, you should certainly visit the museum. Especially when you know that the museum has never received government subsidies and it has to exist from the visitors. Since his father's death in 2014, Gilles has been welcoming visitors and taking on the role of museum curator.

La Roche had to endure a lot during the war and "The Battle of the Bulge", as I already wrote, you will find a lot of it outside the beautiful museum. In addition to several monuments, you will find an Achilles tank destroyer of the 1st Northampshire Regiment and a Sherman M4A1.

Dioramas museum (4)
Dioramas museum (6)

M-4 Halftrack with M-55 Quad machine gun

The M4A1 Sherman in La Roche des Ardennes

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