Bellicourt

The American Memorial

The World War I Somme American Memorial is located a kilometre north of the village of Bellicourt.

Taking the main N44 road out of Cambrai towards Le Catelet and St. Quentin you pass through Masniļæ½res, where the Newfoundland Regiment have one of their five Caribou memorials, and where Canadians played a major part in the battle for Cambrai in 1917.

Just past the villages of Gouy and Le Catelet, you will see a sign for the American Cemetery at Bony. Continue on for another kilometre towards St Quentin and you will see the American Memorial at Bellicourt on your right.

The sign post doesn't give much notice, and the memorial is initially hidden by the trees.

The American SommeCemetery at Bony The American Somme Cemetery at Bony The American Monument

Erected above a canal tunnel , it commemorates the achievements and sacrifices of the 90 000 American troops who served in battle with the British Armies in France during 1917 and 1918

The memorial sits above the St. Quentin Canal. In this area, the canal tunnels through the hillside, to re-emerge just south of Bellicourt at Riqueval. Somewhere else for you to visit in the area.

The tunnel was built by Napoleon and was used by the Germans as part of their Hindenburg line defence system.

 
The American Monument

On the western face of the memorial is a large relief map of the area and shows the part played by the American Divisions (Who were serving as part of the British Army).

The orientation table

At the foot of the map is a large orientation table which looks out over the battlefield.

 

A little background information

On 17 October the US Army advanced along a 10 mile front capturing 60 guns and over 5 000 prisoners.

Whilst these men were dying in the field, others from America were suffering from a bout of flu rampaging through their ranks. During the late summer 20,000 American soldiers died of flu and pneumonia. 49 000 US soldiers died in action during the war, but a total of 62 000 died of flu.

As the American forces were advancing, negotiations were taking place to try and bring the war to an end. There were opposing views though on the military position, prior to any armistice. On 13 October the British Prime Minister Lloyd George expressed his worries that any armistice would give the German army breathing space, and time to rally.

Despite the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force in France a year earlier, General Haig felt that the German army was far from cowed, and the Americans were ill organised and poorly supplied. Haig described the Force as:

"...not yet organised, not yet formed, and had suffered a great deal on account of its ignorance of modern warfare".

Haig did not think that the Americans could be counted upon in the next battles.

Perhaps he had a point: their numbers had not been high, and initially the chief concern had been port facilities. They were after all at the mercy of supply lines stretching across the Atlantic. The U-boat campaign mounted by the German navy was being so successful, that it was proving impossible to adequately guard convoys. There was also incompetence at work: some supply ships were reaching France only half full.

In the end American troops had been sent into the front lines before they were perhaps fully ready for those realities of modern war.

The Commander in Chief: Marshal Foch, felt, contrary to Haig, that considering the devastating losses suffered by the Germans since July that it was an army:

"Physically and morally, thoroughly beaten".

The decision was taken to continue the offensive and defeat the German army rather than accept peace whilst they still held on to foreign territory.