Chemin des Dames

April - May 1917

The attacks continued until 20 April when they were scaled down. Mangin had made some progress to the west of Soissons but elsewhere on the ridge proper gains were sorely limited.

Despite his promises to call off the attack within 48 hours, Nivelle now obstinately refused to do so. The casualties swiftly mounted. It is thought that about 40 000 Frenchmen had become casualties on the first day of the offence and this had risen to 96 125 by 25 April 1917.

The French managed to make a few gains, but they were fairly negligible and the heights remained firmly in the hands of the German defenders.

Somebody had to pay the price for the mess and the first to fall was General Mangin who was removed in disgrace on 30 April and replaced by General Maistre.

On 4 May 1917 Nivelle ordered a second attempt at the ridge. This time he concentrated his effort on the eastern edge - in the area of the Plateau de Californie and Craonne. The attack was a success, but at considerable cost.

As a supporter of the plan, General Mangin had been the first to fall from grace in April. On 15 May 1917 it was the turn of Nivelle and he was exiled to North Africa.

Mangin would later return to the war, but Nivelle was never mentioned again.

Mangin's return Mangin's return: 2nd Battle of the Marne, 1918

Chanson de Craonne

Rising from the shattering attack on Craonne came a song which was not long in becoming famous throughout the entire French Army.

The opening verse and chorus

Quand au bout de huit jours le repos terminé
On va reprendre les tranchées,
Notre place est si utile
Que sans nous on prend la pile.
Mais c'est bien fini, on en a assez,
Personne ne veut plus marcher.
Et le coeur bien gros, comm' dans un sanglot,
On dit adieu aux civelots.
Mais sans tambour et sans trompette
On s'en va là-bas en baissant la tête.


Adieu la vie, adieu l'amour,
Adieu toutes les femmes.
C'est bien fini, c'est pour toujours
De cette guerre infâme.
C'est à Craonne sur le plateau
Qu'on doit laisser sa peau
Car nous sommes tous des condamnés
Nous sommes les sacrifiés.

The French Mutiny The French Mutiny
Touring the Ridge Touring the Ridge