Chemin des Dames

Beaurepaire French Military Cemetery Pontavert

Location

This large Military Cemetery sits on the southern side of the D 925 on the western outskirts of the village of Pontavert following the signs for Beaurieux.

From the Tank Memorial at Berry-au-Bac simply continue through the village along the main road. Coming from Craonne turn right onto the D 925 as you reach Pontavert.

History

The cemetery was begun in 1915, and enlarged after the Armistice in 1919.

In an area of over 24 500 sq metres it contains 6 694 French soldiers of the First World War, 67 British soldiers who fell in this area during October 1914 and in May/October 1918 and a further 54 Russian soldiers killed during the Chemin des Dames Offensive.

The Mass grave at the rear of the cemetery

1 364 of the French lie in a mass grave; the majority unknown.

From 1919 to 1925 soldiers were brought in from a number of outlying cemeteries:

The French Cemeteries include: Beaurieux, Samoussy, Guyencourt, Meurival, La-Ville-aux-bois, and Vassogne.
The German Cemeteries include: Sissonne, Coucy-le-Eppes, Amifontaine, and Nizy-le-Comte.

The Cemetery was completely repaired in 1972.

The CWGC Plot

The British plot, near the East corner, was made after the Armistice, when British dead were brought from (among other places) the French Military Cemeteries of Meurival, Gernicourt, Guyencourt (Aisne), Monaco (Pontavert) and Beaurieux.

Over half of the 67 soldiers lying here are unknown.

Special memorials are erected to two soldiers buried in Guyencourt French Military Cemetery (Aisne), whose graves could not be found.

 
Pontavert French Military Cemetery

Pontavert French Military Cemetery

 
Private J McDougal

Private J McDougal 39766
15th Bn Durham Light Infantry
Died on 12 June 1918 aged 20
Son of Thomas and Hannah McDougal, of Moor House, Framwellgate Moor, Co. Durham.
Born at Bedlington, Northumberland.
Grave: Guyencourt French Military Cemetery Memorial 2

Who died as a prisoner of war and was buried at the time in Guyencourt French Military Cemetery but whose grave is now lost

Private T Jones

Private T Jones 13185
9th Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Died on 31 May 1918
Grave: Guyencourt French Military Cemetery Memorial 1

Who died as a prisoner of war and was buried at the time in Guyencourt French Military Cemetery but whose grave is now lost

Tirailleur Faro Bakery

Tirailleur Faro Bakery 2288
28è Bn Tirailleurs Sénégalais
Died of wounds on 17 September 1917
Age unknown
A native of French Guyana
Grave: 1278

Soldat Julien Arnault

Soldat Julien Arnault 14240
46è Régiment d'Infanterie
Died on 16 April 1917 aged 20
Born at St Mars la Brière (Sarthe 72)
Grave: 2906

Took part in the 10th Division attack at Pontavert with the 31st RI - see below.

 
Monument to the 31st RI

31è Régiment d'Infanterie

To the right of the mass grave you will see this monument to the 31è Régiment d'Infanterie from Melun. Originally erected during the war in the temporary Monaco Cemetery at Pontavert, the monument was moved in 1920 to its current location.

It commemorates the heroic deeds of the Regiment during the opening days of the Nivelle offensive (16-18th April 1917) when they stormed the Ville-aux-Bois

The monument includes an inscription of their citation which states how on the 16th April the Regiment was charged with taking the village of Ville-aux-Bois.

The attack was a huge success with the Regiment fighting a determined enemy through the village and the Bois des Buttes capturing 1500 prisoners, 6 cannons, 50 heavy machine guns and numerous trench mortars (Minenwerfer).

Profiting from a successful bombardment and an element of surprise the French found the initial going fairly easy and suffered few casualties (This seems to be pretty much the case no matter where on the front that day). The going then got harder in the face of the, as ever, untouched German machine gun positions and they became stalled on the outskirts of the village.

In the Bois des Buttes they had captured a tunnel which ran the entire length of the wood and 2nd Lieutenant Dubois with just two men captured the main redoubt taking 72 prisoners.

Over the next couple of days the soldiers took the village and pushed right out as far the D 1044 where their assault was finally brought to a halt.

By the end of the attack the Regiment had captured more men than its own effective strength including two German Battalion Commanders.


The Ville-aux-Bois was defended a year later by the 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment who were annihilated. They have a memorial in the village which can be easily visited from here.

To get there, turn right from the cemetery towards Pontavert and continue to the third road on your left marked D 89. Follow this road up through the Bois des Buttes to La-Ville-aux-Bois-lès-Pontavert.

The 2nd Devon's The 2nd Devon's

Continuing on through Pontavert takes you out towards the N44 and A 26 Autoroute via the Tank Memorial at Berry-au-Bac

The French Tank Memorial The French Tank Memorial
 

If you have been following this guided tour of the Chemin des Dames continue towards Pontavert but take the first road to the left back towards Craonne.

Note that this is also the D 89 so follow the sign posts.

Follow the signs for Craonnelle off to your left and its French Military Cemetery.

Craonnelle Military Cemetery Craonnelle Military Cemetery