Chemin des Dames

Craonnelle French Military Cemetery

The cemetery is easily located on the Chemin des Dames D 18CD on the outskirts of Craonnelle heading towards Craonne.

It should be remarked that from the Caverne du Dragon the road running along the ridge towards the Plateau de Californie is the D 895.

Craonnelle French Military Cemetery

History

This cemetery was greatly enlarged after the war, in 1920, and covers an area of 10 897 sq metres.

Originally situated next to a First Aid Post during the Nivelle Offensive the site was chosen to regroup those who had died on the Plateau de Casemates and the Plateau de Californie in 1917.

The remains of soldiers were brought in from smaller First Aid cemeteries including: Flandres at Oulches, Vassogne, Jumigny, Craonne and Vauclair Windmill.

The cemetery contains the remains of 3 936 soldiers. 24 are British and two are Belgian. Of the remaining Frenchmen 1 884 rest in a single mass grave to the rear of the cemetery high on the hill.

General Nivelle was so certain of victory that his First Aid and Hospital facilities were woefully underestimated.

Within hours of the commencement of the battle the casualty stations were saturated to bursting point. Soldiers often had to lay out in the freezing rain under a bombardment for 48 hours because there was no method of getting them clear. Stretcher bearers were required to work under horrendous conditions and many of the French wounded died through simple lack of medical personnel.

Craonnelle French Military Cemetery

Two unknown British soldiers lie within a sea of French soldiers

The British graves do not have their own plot and are simply scattered amongst the French, a pair here a pair there.

Almost all of them are unidentified. And of the seven whose names are known: all fell on the 27th May 1918.

 
Looking down from the top of the cemetery towards Craonnelle

Looking down from the top of the cemetery towards Craonnelle
The steepness of the slope is evident

 
Jean-Baptiste Chrisostome and Dominique Chrisostome

Caporal Jean-Baptiste Chrisostome 534
3è Régiment d'Infanterie Coloniale
Died on 22 August 1914 aged 27
DOB 25 June 1887
Born in Cambo les Bains (Basse Pyrénées 64)
Killed in Action at St Vincent Rossignol Belgium
Grave: 1449

Sergent Dominique Chrisostome 1216
49è Régiment d'Infanterie
Died on 1 October 1915 aged 17
DOB 27 April 1898
Born in Cambo les Bains (Basse Pyrénées 64)
Killed in Action at Oulches (Aisne)
Grave: 1449

It would appear that these are two brothers. Jean-Baptiste was killed in a bloody encounter trying to stop the German advance through Belgium during the opening campaign of the war.

Dominique's regiment was stationed along the Chemin des Dames from early on in the war and would fight here again in 1917.

Originally the French Government like the British wanted their fallen to remain on the battlefields, but pressure from families changed the regulations.

In some ways this was a pity because many of the fallen now lie under sadly neglected graves in villages, the families having moved on to elsewhere.

 

British Graves

These men were caught up the whirlwind of Operation Blücher launched by the Germans on the morning of 27 May 1918. They were part of the 150th Brigade of 50th Division holding the Plateau de Californie and Craonne.


Henry Harrison

Private Henry Harrison 42261
1/4th Bn Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
Died on 27 May 1918 aged 19
Son of Mr and Mrs William Harrison, of 206, Ashton Rd, West Failsworth, Manchester.
Grave: 1845

R Watson

Private R Watson 29568
1/4th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment
Died on 27 May 1918
Grave: 1844

Norman Gibson

Private Norman Gibson 41629
1/4th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment
Died on 27 May 1918 aged 18
Son of William Gibson, of 2 Alexandra Rd, Windermere, Westmorland.
Grave: 1718

Charles Sills

Private Charles Sills 67830
50th Bn Machine Gun Corps
Died on 27 May 1918 aged 33
Son of George and Emily Sills, of King's Plot Villas, Lydd, Kent.
Grave: 1720

G Rees

Private G Rees 34962
1/4th Bn Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
Died on 27 May 1918
Grave: 1719


There are two other identified casualties within the cemetery but I missed them.

Private F Howell 225243
1/4th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment
Died on 27 May 1918
Grave: 1835

Private Alfred King 55787
Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)
Died on 27 May 1918 aged 31
Husband of Eva King of Beck Row Rd, Mildenhall, Suffolk
Grave: 1820

 

There are a number of possibilities from Craonnelle.

If you did not do so from the Caverne de Dragon, now is the time to drive up the D 18CD and visit the Basque Monument which you can already see on the horizon overlooking Craonnelle and offers some exceptional views over this part of the battlefield.

Having visited the monument return to Craonnelle and continue on towards Soissons.

The Basque Monument The Basque Monument

If following this tour continue down the D 892 to Beaurieux and then turn right onto the D 925 towards Soissons. After a few kilometres you will come to Oeuilly.

Oeuilly French Military Cemetery Oeuilly French Military Cemetery