Chemin des Dames

La ferme d'Hurtebise

Situated a matter of a few hundred metres from the Caverne du Dragon, the name of the farm roughly translates as touched by the wind and conjures up the north winds which blow across the ridge.

The farm was totally ruined during the war and what you see today has been rebuilt.

La Ferme d'Hurtebise

Not far from here on 7 March 1814 Napoleon fought his last battle before going into exile on Elba.

Against the armies of Russia and Prussia even he found that the Chemin des Dames was a difficult proposition.

The Marie-Louise Monument

Although he won the battle, the war was lost.

A hundred years later a simple pyramid monument was unveiled here to commemorate the event but it never had the chance to stand the test of time because within six months war was raging and the monument has disappeared forever.

To replace it and commemorate two great battles on the same location a new monument was erected on exactly the same spot in 1927.

The monument by Maxime Real del Sarte shows two French soldiers: Napoleonic and First World War, their Regimental Flag between them, holding aloft a laurel crown.

You could argue about the uniform of the Poilu, as it is more 1917 than 1914, but whatever.

The statue's title The Marie-Louise originates from the name given by Napoleon to the young recruits of 1814 in honour of his second wife the Empress Marie Louise.

The classe or year of conscription for 1917 were nicknamed the Bleuets (after the flower) because they were the first to wear nothing but the new blue uniforms.

La Ferme d'Hurtebise

On the wall of the farm opposite the monument you can see some memorial plaques. One is the second in this area in honour of the 4th Zouaves who fought with great valour against the Prussian Guards in 1917.

 

The road at this point forks with the D18 turning off to the right and the Chemin des Dames becoming the D895.

The fork to the right - the D 18 - takes you down to the Basque Monument on the ridge above Craonnelle. This is a good moment to make this slight detour - but come back again to this point to continue towards the Plateau de Californie.

Alternatively the monument can also be easily reached from Craonnelle later on in the visit. It does offer some exceptional views over the countryside so don't miss the chance.

The Basque Monument The Basque Monument

Continuing on towards the Plateau de Californie by the left hand fork (the D 895) we reach the Plateau de Vauclerc.

 

Napoleon

The Statue of Napoleon

A little further along the road a statue of Napoleon by Georges Thurotte was erected in 1974 on the site of the former Vauclair windmill which Napoleon used an an observation post.

It commemorates the battle here on 7 March 1814 when Napoleon was fighting against the Russians and Prussians under General Blücher. The German's called their failed offensive here in 1918 Operation Blücher.

The windmill which was also used as an observation platform by the Germans during the Great War was completely destroyed during the battle


Continue along the Chemin des Dames towards The Plateau de Californie.

Plateau de Californie Plateau de Californie