Remember Museum — 1939-45, Thimister, Belgium

This privately owned museum is highly memorable, not only for the superb private tour given by Marcelle and Mathilde Schmetz, but for the staggering volume of interesting exhibits, equipment that most respectable state military museums would covet.

M&M, as they like to be called, wearing U.S. flag scarves and ties, start the tours off in their kitchen where they tell the story of how they accumulated the artifacts and started the museum in 1994. Marcelle was just seven years old on his parent’s farm in the Ardennes, enjoying the attention he got from the 110 infantrymen from the 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One) who were billeted there. They plied him with chocolate, chewing gum, candy and let him play with their weapons and equipment. He was a “younger brother” to these war-weary GIs, who just wanted to get the war over and return stateside to start their new lives.

One of the  tanks on display.

One of the tanks on display.

One day they bugged out within a few minutes, leaving most of their equipment on the farm. The Germans had just bro-ken through in the Battle of the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) and the American front was in a state of chaos, ruptured in several places by German spearheads. This abandoned equipment formed the basis of Marcelle’s museum, supplemented over the years by donations from U.S. veterans and other locals who had all manner of equipment and weapons lying around.

The tour proceeds to the large garage with U.S. military trucks, including one used in the Red Ball Express. Signa-tures and messages from hundreds of soldiers from the 99th Division and 1st Infantry Division are written across the sides of the truck.

The main museum is in a three-story stone barn where M&M tell stories about the various photos, flags, medals, weapons, silk airman’s map scarves, uniformed models and much more. Ranging from inspirational to heart-rending; the stories are tales of triumph and tragedy that only war can evoke. Newspaper clippings and photographs form special stories of dozens of U.S. servicemen.

One of the diorama exhibits.

One of the diorama exhibits.

The dioramas easily rival anything the well-funded museums can offer, their scenes depicting typical WWII life. Marcelle has even created a realistic Sherman tank out of plywood, complete with tank commander. The impressive uniform collection displayed on well-tended wax models is wide ranging.

For a visit to a military museum, this one is amongst the best in Europe.

M&M have continued to support all U.S. Army and Air Force veterans of WWII in many ways since. They’ve held special memorials for discovered remains of U.S. airmen dug out of crash sites and hosted countless hundreds of U.S. (and German) veterans at their farmhouse for tours and overnight stays.

Remember Museum — 1939-45 (Les Béolles, 4, 4890 Clermont, Belgium; phone/fax 087/44 61 81, visit www.remembermuseum.com/en) is open the first Sunday each month from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.