Chemin des Dames

The Western Gateway

Coming from Soissons the entrance to the Chemin des Dames (D18CD) at the crossroads of l'Ange Gardien is marked by a Calvaire.

The new road system (if you are using an older map) takes you onto the Chemin des Dames just before reaching the crucifix - though you will see it on the other side of the roundabout.

The Chavignon Calvaire

The cross was erected in 1924 by public subscription to commemorate all of the French soldiers who fell during the battles of the Chemin des Dames and Malmaison.

 

Régiment d'Infanterie Coloniale du Maroc

The monument to the RICM

A couple of kilometres along the Chemin des Dames you will see this block of granite erected in 1934, commemorating this celebrated Regiment's taking of the quarries at la Bohéry on the southern slope on 23 October 1918.

Under the command of Lt Colonel Debailleul the Regiment not only managed to take the quarries but also the trenches held by the Prussian Guard who had been told to defend them to the last.

Even then the Regiment pushed on for a total distance of 2.5 kilometres under heavy fire and sustaining heavy losses. They took all their objectives and captured 950 prisoners and 10 guns.

The battle in this area over the next few days acted as the lever on the German positions. Once their right had been eased open it was impossible for the Germans to remain on the ridge.

 

The Soldatenfriedhof at La Malmaison

Almost immediately after the monument you will reach the Soldatenfriedhof at La Malmaison.

This is an enormous Second World War German Military Cemetery containing about 1200 soldiers gathered from smaller graveyards in the area. It is remarkably different from their First World War cemeteries. To begin with it is far more spacious. The graves are only two to the cross not the usual four. There is a visitor's centre and an enormous cross.

The German Military Cemetery at Malmaison

I have to say that I find it rather strange. Somewhere deep inside me is the feeling that whilst the German Soldiers of the First World War were fighting for their country, there was something far more sinister in the ideals of the Nazi Government that was directing them in the Second. I would have expected there to be more embarrassment about the German dead from the second war than the first.

 
The monument to the 38eme DI

The 38ème Division d'Infanterie

Not wishing to miss out in the monument stakes the 38th Division which included the 4th Zouaves and the RICM also erected a monument at Malmaison right next to the entrance to the cemetery and on the road down to Malmaison Fort.

It states how the Division which also included the 4th Zouaves-Tirailleurs (and thus young Taillefert - whose memorial is at Laffaux) and the 8th Tunisian Tirailleurs stormed the fort and surrounding area.

It also states that the 4th Zouaves in taking the fort took 600 prisoners, 17 guns and numerous machine guns. It was for this action that they received their 6th citation.

Citations in the French Army were a little like Mentioned in Dispatches for the British. The difference being that for regiments they acted on a cumulative basis earning collective medals and the right for its men to wear lanyards representing the citations.

In this way soldiers got to wear something that marked the achievements of their regiment. As the citations increased so the lanyard changed colour.

The RICM received 10 citations and her regimental colours and soldiers wore not only the distinction of the Croix de Guerre but also the Legion d'honneur.


Continue down the side of the Cemetery a few hundred metres to Fort Malmaison.

Fort Malmaison Fort Malmaison