WW1 Revisited

Archives

Les Crapouillots was a satirical magazine during the Great War and also the name given to the Trench Mortar branch of the French Army by the Poilus in the trenches. This memorial in the village of Laffaux in the battlefields between Soissons and the Chemin des Dames commemorates 12,000 men of the unit who died on the Western Front. Constructed in the 1930s it was badly damaged in May 1940 during the… Read More

The village of Sommepy in the Champagne battlefields was behind the German front line for most of the war until the ruins of it were taken by American troops from the American Expeditionary Force in September 1918. This archway, which was once part of the entrance to a large chateau, is the only remaining structure from the pre-1914 days still standing in the village. It is peppered with shell impact marks and… Read More

The Voie Sacrée, or the ‘Sacred Way’, was a road running from Bar le Duc, a major railhead behind the front, and the forward battle zone at Verdun. In 1916 it was realised that the defence of Verdun by the French Army rested on its ability to resupply the front with men, ammunition, food and equipment. The road ran for 72km and operated night and day with thousands of men and vehicles moving up… Read More

The sight of front-line barbed wire remains a powerful image of the Great War. In the early stage of the war the use of so-called ‘Chevaux de Frise‘ (or knife-rests as they were known by the British) enabled soldiers to prepare barbed wire defences behind the lines and bring them up, putting them in place at night. Being portable they could also be moved. Few survive intact but this section is part of… Read More

Small French battlefield cemeteries are rarer than the British ones on the Western Front as most battlefield cemeteries were concentrated into larger burial grounds in the 1920s. This small battlefield cemetery is close to the village of Chavannes les Grands in the Vosges and commemorates men from a French regiment who fought here in August 1914. Buried here are Lieutenant Paul Genairon and his comrades of the 260th Regiment of Infantry. On… Read More

When the Great War went static during the winter of 1914/15 and trench warfare began, steel “sniper’s plates” started to be used by both sides to afford protection to their troops and enable them to fire safely across No Man’s Land. There were many designs of these and some just had a hole to fire through, while others used a ‘key-hole’ system so that the protected area could be sealed up again… Read More

The Ouvrage Froideterre was part of the defences built around Verdun in the late 1880s. It was added to a number of times before WW1 and then re-organised when the war started in 1914. The position was defended by two twin machine-gun bunkers and a 75mm turret (seen above) along with a 75mm Bourges casemate. The position saw heavy fighting in 1916 and the ground around it smashed to pieces by shell-fire…. Read More

The Tranchée de Calonne, despite it’s name, was not actually a trench: tranchée being the French for trench. Instead it was a long road running for more than 25km through the wooded area south-east of Verdun into what became known as the Saint Mihiel Salient. The area saw heavy fighting from September 1914 and some of the earliest trenches used by the French Army were dug among the trees here. French writer Alain… Read More

By the close of the Great War the French Army had lost more than 1.4 million dead: their burials are scattered across more than 350 mile of the Western Front occupied by French forces. In the Department of the Aisne the cemeteries are very evident between Soissons and Reims, and this one at Braine, taken in early evening light on a bright March day, commemorates the dead from operations on the Aisne… Read More

It is said that more than a thousands shells fell in every square metre of the Verdun battlefield in 1916 creating a vast crater zone, which is still visible on the battlefield nearly a century later. By the close of the fighting this battlefield had claimed more than 770,000 French and German casualties, and the French Poilus had called it ‘The Mincing Machine’. On this part of the battlefield at Abris 320… Read More