"CHEMIN DES DAMES – ADIEU LA VIE, ADIEU L’AMOUR" Cerny-en-Laonnois by mtncorg
Cerny-en-Laonnois Travel Guide: 9 reviews and 30 photos
“Good bye to Life,
Good bye to Love,
Good bye to all the Women,
It’s really the end, forever
Of this infamous war.
It’s in Craonne up on the plateau
That we’re leaving our skins,
‘Cause we’ve all been sentenced to die
We’re the ones they’re sacrificing.”
So goes the refrain from ‘Le Chanson de Craonne’ which was sung by French troops who mutinied after the disastrous attacks on the Chemin des Dames by General Robert Nivelle in April-May 1917. The song had begun to appear between 1914 and 1915 and was changed to suit the battlefield upon which it was sung. Verdun had its own version of “Adieu la vie, adieu l’amour”.
The Chemin des Dames is a road that was built in the time of Louis XV for his daughters so they could easier visit one of his mistresses. The road goes along a plateau which is north of the Aisne River. With their defeat at the First Marne, the Germans retreated northwards and occupied the ridgeline here, creating with time one of the more formidable positions on the Western Front. The area was the site for major fighting on several occasions during the war. First, in 1914, the British and French were repulsed here after the Germans finally turned to fight after their withdrawal from the Marne. The 1917 offensive starting in late April 1917 led to the dismissal of French commander Nivelle who had jumped to the top spot after success in Verdun and the French government had gotten tired of Joffre’s grignotage. The main problem with the assault, besides the failed attack, itself, was that Nivelle had gone around to everyone before the offensive and promised that the end of the war was nigh and in the unlikely event he was stopped, he would discontinue operations after 48 hours and not drag things out like Joffre did in the Artois, the Champagne, the Vosges, Les Eparges. The assault failed miserably in the face of late wintery weather and Nivelle then persisted in ordering up attacks that dragged on for three weeks in which 30,000 died – total French casualties were 187,000 compared to 163,000 for the Germans. The French army almost came undone. Many units went into mutiny – almost 24,000 men – spontaneously and it was only with a very careful touch that General Henri Petain, the new French commander, was able to stabilize the situation and partially restore the ability of France’s army.
On 27 May 1918, the Germans launched the third of their Spring Offensives from here rolling the French lines all the way back to the Marne River. The attack had been planned as a feint while the main attack was to come back in the Flanders against the British for what was to be a knockout blow. But with the successes, the Flanders operation was put on the backburner – it would never be launched. The German drive finally stalled and the Germans would eventually be pushed back atop these hills once again, though this time their hold would be short-lived as Allied offensives and threats to their flanks forced, the Germans to give up their positions here.
Guillaume Apollonaire was a well-known French poet, writer and art critic from before the war. His mother was Polish and... more travel advice
There are fourteen different French military cemeteries scattered about along the Chemin des Dames. This one is off the... more travel advice
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