The D 18, on the Ridge of the Chemin des Dames,
overseeing the valley of the Aisne river.
The Germans had fortified the natural fortress after the time of the Battle of the Marne.
It is also the infamous battlefield of the bloody
Nivelles-offensive of 1917.
The valley of the Aisne river,
which the French troops had to cross to reach the German lines.
During the Nivelles-offensive of 16 April 1917
the French deployed many of their Colonial Troops,
like the Regiment Infanterie Coloniale du Maroc.
This is the Memorial for the RICM near Fort Malmaison.
This small wood is hiding the ruins of Fort Malmaison,
occupied by the Germans in April 1917.
The Colonial troops fought heavily in the area
around the well defended Fort Malmaison.
The overgrown ruins of the now unaccessible Fort Malmaison.
The Nivelles-offensive, named to it's strategist, General Robert Nivelles, started on 16 April 1917 and the plan was disputed from the beginning by President Poincaré.
The strategic goal was to capture 9km of the ridge of the Chemin des Dames within 24 hours. Nivelles used the 5th and the 6th Armies, 128 tanks, and 3800 guns.
He recklessly spilled the lives of his Colonial Troops and his Home Troops.
On 23 April, after only 7 days of the offensive, all further operations were immediately forbidden by Poincaré, personally. Poincaré forced Nivelles to resign at once.
There were 187.000 French casualties and 167.000 German casualties after 7 days of battle. The gain of the offensive was 500 m into the valley upwards under the slopes of the ridge.
During and after the battle spontaneous mutinies broke out amongst French soldiers along the front.
The Dutch-born Joost van Vollenhoven, ...
... an heroic and higly decorated officer of the RICM, made critical and unwelcome remarks about the bloodshed during the recruiting and employment of African Colonial Troops during the offensive.
French Court Martial 1917.
General Pétain succeeded Nivelles and had executed some 27 mutineers out of 30.000 as an example to restore order in the ranks.
Nivelles obviously had miscalculated the steepness of the slope of the plateau.
This monument in front of the overgrown
Fort Malmaison commemorates ...
... the succesful attack of
the Zouave and Tunesian Regiments of 23 October 1917.
"On 23 October 1917 the 38th Division including the 4th Régiment Zouaves, the R.I.C.M., the 4th Mixed Régiment Zouaves-Riflemen,the 8th Régiment Tunisien Riflemen,the 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, took part in the attack.
With a single storm attack the 4th Zouaves conquered Fort Malmaison and all it's other objectives, making 600 prisoners on 23-24-25 October, capturing 17 artilliery guns en countless machine guns, being decorated with it's 6th citation in the Order of the Army."
"Le 23 octobre 1917 la 38ème Division comprenant le 4ème Régiment Zouaves, le R.I.C.M.,
le 4ème Régiment mixte Zouaves-Tirailleurs,
le 8ème Régiment Tirailleurs Tunisiens,
le 32ème Régiment d'Artillerie de campagne,
part à l'attaque.
D'un seul élan, le 4ème Zouaves s'empare du Fort de la Malmaison et de tous ses objectifs, faisant les 23-24-25 octobre 600 prisonniers, capturant 17 canons et de nombreuses mitrailleuses, obtenant sa 6ème citation à l'Ordre de l'Armée."
We leave la Royère and Fort Malmaison
to continue to Cerny en Laonnois.
We take a small, sandy sideroad, near Braye en Laonnois,
to reach a high point, ...
... overlooking the Aisne valley in
the direction of the Oise -Aisne Channel.
From this valley the 27e Bataillon Chasseurs Alpins,
special mountain troops,
attacked succesfully this steep hill during the Nivelles-offensive.
This monument commemorates all
their soldiers of the 27th Batalion, killed in both World Wars.
In Cerny en Laonnois, a centrepoint of the Nivelles-offensive, ...
... two war cemeteries, a French and a German one,
are lying next to each other, ...
... symbolising and pointing out the surroundings,
where they were killed.
This soldier has been a member of
51st Bataillon Tirailleurs Sénegelais (from Senegal).
Private Moinvoisin died already somewhere here
during the Battle of the Marne in 1914.
A view over the battlefield from the edge
of the German war cemetery.
Probably the spot of these troops in 1917.
The German losses during 4 years of war
in this sector are countless.
As a small reminder:
167.000 German casualties during only 7 days in 1917!
"ON THIS GERMAN GRAVE YARD REST 7519 GERMAN
WAR VICTIMS 1914 -1918".
People of all believes and backgrounds
were represented on this battlefield.
The Chapel of Cerny en Laonnois commemorates
the soldiers without a known grave.
please, leave the door open for the new life of the young birds, living in the Chapel.
Some kilometers before the Dragon's Cave:
a monument, erected by a family, for a nearby fallen soldier,
Second Lieutenant Louis Astoul of the 70th Sénegalese Regiment, ...
... who was killed on 16 April 1917,
and who may have looked
like his Senegalese comrades in those times.
Continue to the next chapter: