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Webmatters : Division marocaine memorial at Vimy
Rough Map of Area

Division Marocaine

Location

The Moroccan Division’s memorial is situated within the Canadian National Memorial Park at Vimy Ridge.

From Neuville St Vaast follow the signs for the Canadian Memorial, continuing past the Visitors’ Centre until you reach the monument’s car park. You will see this memorial on your left as you turn into the car park.

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Decimal 50.379285 2.769783 Map

The Moroccan Division Memorial on Vimy Ridge

 

Background

It is a shame that so many people who come to Vimy, visit the trenches, go down the tunnels, marvel at the Canadian monument and leave without giving much thought to the large memorial at Hill 145 to the men of the Division marocaine (Moroccan Division).

To them this was in fact Cote 140 or Hill 140, and whilst the Canadians did indeed score a magnificent victory here, the men of the French Foreign Legion had already gained the summit in May 1915.

In their case, they hadn’t started at the foot of the ridge but from almost four kilometres away.

The right of their Division was positioned in the general area of the French Military Cemetery at La Targette and extended towards the north-west and a place called Berthonval Farm which can still be seen today if you take the La Targette to Mont St Éloi road: D49.

The Czechoslovak Cemetery at Neuville St Vaast

Their route towards the summit of Vimy Ridge would take them across the main Souchez-Arras road (D937) in the area of the Polish Monument and Czechoslovakian Cemetery.

The Division went into the attack on 9th May 1915 with two regiments : The 1er Régiment étranger and the 7e Tirailleurs. Their other two regiments were held as the 33e Corps Reserve (8e Zouaves and 4e Tirailleurs).

Unlike other units in the French Army the Moroccan Division (and thus the Legion as well) wore khaki uniforms.

Starting their advance at 1000 hours the Division smashed its way through all of the German front and reserve lines in its path. By 1100 the first elements of the Division were already on the ridge and by 1130 hours the summit was theirs.

There would be other occasions in the war when a unit would so outstrip its flanking units that it would find itself placed in danger and under attack from three sides. Rarely though would the distance be as great as created by the Moroccan Division.

Their success was so unexpected that the reserves that were being called for at 1045 hours were still in the villages of Mont St Éloi and Acq, eight kilometres behind the objectives.

Neither the Zouaves nor the Tirailleurs would enter into the conflict until mid afternoon.

For two days Légionaires, Tirailleurs and Zouaves struggled in the face of mounting enemy counter attacks and heavy bombardments.

By the 11th it was evident that they would have to be pulled back.

Their monument stands proudly alongside that of Canada and has recently been refurbished.

 

The Memorial

Aux morts de la division marocaine, sans peur, sans pitié

À la mémoire du Colonel Plein, commandant la 1ère demi brigade, du Colonel Cros, commandant la 2ème demi brigade, des officiers, des sous-officiers et soldats de la Division marocaine tombés ici glorieusement les 9, 10 et 11 mai 1915. Le 9 mai 1915, les régiments de la division marocaine s’élançant à 10 heures des tranchées de Berthonval et brisant de haute lutte la résistance des allemands atteignirent d’un bond la cote 140, leur objectif, rompant pour la première fois le front ennemi.

To the memory of the soldiers of the Moroccan Division, no fear, no pity

To the memory of Colonel Plein, commanding the 1st Brigade, to Colonel Cros, commanding the 2nd Brigade, the officers, NCOs and soldiers of the Moroccan Division who fell here on the 9th, 10th and 11th May 1915. The 9th May 1915 the regiments of the Moroccan Division launched their attack at 1000 hours from the trenches at Berthonval Farm and, breaking the Germans’ defences, reached Hill 140 in just one leap, piercing the enemy’s line for the first time.

The Moroccan Division had been formed in that country by the French Military,
however there was not a single Moroccan unit within its ranks.

The term sous-officier in French corresponds to sergeant and above, corporals are not included within their number but NCO is approximate.

More accurate maps would transform Cote 140 into Hill 145 for the Canadians in 1917.

The monument was erected on the initiative of veterans and it was inaugurated on 14th June 1925.

Around its base are a number of Association plaques which commemorate some of the nationals forming the Foreign Legion.

A plinth reminds visitors that the Division remains the most decorated Division to have served France.