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Webmatters : Joost van Vollenhoven Monument at Longpont

Joost van Vollenhoven


Longpont is a village about fourteen kilometres south-west of Soissons. From that town take the N2 until you reach the Forest of Retz where you will see a sign for Longpont along the D2 road. Just over two kilometres down the road you will see this impressive monument commemorating Captain Joost van Vollenhoven of the Régiment d’infanterie coloniale du Maroc (RICM).

Decimal49.2757393.196362 Map
Joost van Vollenhoven Monument at Longpont


Captain Joost van Vollenhoven

An interesting man, van Vollenhoven, as his name would suggest, was Dutch by birth. His parents had commercial interests in Algeria and this is where he grew up, eventually taking French citizenship in 1899 at the age of 22. He joined the French Foreign Office (I suppose we would call it) and was soon rising up through the ranks.

By 1912 he was in Indochina as Governor for the Colonies. At the outbreak of war he was promoted again, to Governor General in Hanoi. This, however, did not sit well with van Vollenhoven who had an enormous desire to return to Europe and fight for his adopted country.

In April 1915 he got his chance, having been relieved of his Civil duties and taking a position of Sous Lieutenant in the RICM.

After being wounded a number of times and having received numerous citations for valour, he was asked in May 1917 to return to his Civil duties and take up a post as Governor General of French West Africa — this at the age of 40.

His period in Africa didn’t last very long though, for by the end of the year he was engaged in a major disagreement with the French Government over the recruitment of African soldiers. He quit his post and rejoined his old regiment, this time as a Captain.


This famous regiment was part of the 38e Division d’Infanterie which took part in Général Mangin’s counter-offensive on 18th July 1918. Launching their attack from the Forest of Retz on the morning of 18th July 1918 the RICM had taken Longpont within forty-five minutes of the commencement at 0435 hours. Two hours later, having secured the village, the Regiment had advanced a further four kilometres and seized Mont Rambœf. By midday on 19th July Parcy had fallen — their objective achieved the regiment secured their line that evening.

It was during this final assault on Parcy that van Vollenhoven was fatally wounded leading his men into the attack at Parcy (Where you will find a monument to the RICM marking their furthest point of advance on 19th July 1918).

Over three days of fighting the regiment captured 825 prisoners, 24 pieces of artillery and 120 machine guns. Their own losses however were considerable — in advancing seven kilometres the RICM lost 754 men killed and wounded. Both the regiment and Captain van Vollenhoven received further citations for their achievements during the battle, and it is these that are inscribed on his monument.

On 22nd July 1918 the British 34th Division relieved the 38e DI.

The Monument

Joost van Vollenhoven Monument at Longpont

The monument shows the Captain leading his men for the last time, as well as scenes from his previous service in the colonies of Africa and Indochina. Citations to both the Regiment and van Vollenhoven adorn the sides of the monument. Like some other monuments in the area it was badly damaged by the German occupiers during the 2nd World War and restored in 1954.

Other monuments in the area