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Webmatters : 15th (Scottish) Division Memorial at Buzancy

15th (Scottish) Division

Location

Buzancy is a village in the Department of the Aisne, 7 kilometres south of Soissons and 50 kilometres west of Reims, Northern France. From Soissons, turn left off the N2 ring road (going south) onto the D1 road towards Château Thierry, passing the villages of Courmelles and Berzy-le Sec. After about 6 kilometres, turn left onto the D1240 (at the first CWGC road sign) next to the American First Division Memorial, and then turn left up the Rue de la Montagne (second CWGC road sign). The Cemetery is situated at the end of this narrow road approximately 300 metres on the right hand side and the memorial within it.

GPS N E Wikimapia
Decimal 49.314457 3.341898 Map

Buzancy Military Cemetery

 

Background

In March 1918 the Germans launched their Spring Offensive : the Kaiserschlacht. They succeeded in pushing back the British Fifth Army, destroying it in the doing so, but ultimately failed to actually pierce the line. A new offensive was then launched in Flanders.

Exhausted British units were brought down to the quiet area of the Chemin des Dames for rest only to be hit by a third offensive launched on 27th May. This third onslaught smashed its way through the French and British held lines along the Chemin des Dames (The scene of terrible fighting by the French in 1917).

However, once again, although the line was badly bent it did not break and with the aid of American Divisions the 2nd Battle of the Marne broke the Ludendorf’s grand plan to beat the Allies before the Americans could become fully operational.

The time had come for the Allies to launch their own offensive and this began on 18th July 1918 with the French Général Mangin assaulting towards Soissons from out of the Forest of Retz. The surprise was complete and the Germans began falling back under the pressure of French and American troops.

On 22nd July two British Divisions arrived to carry out reliefs within the French Tenth Army. The 15th (Scottish) Division relieved the 1st US Division in XX Corps, whilst the 34th Division relieved the French 38e Division d’Infanterie in XXX Corps.

The Official History recounts how the Americans left their Field Hospital behind for four days to assist the Highlanders, however, some lucky soldiers who wandered into French Medical ambulances found themselves recuperating in the south of France !

 

Buzancy 28th July 1918

By 28th July 1918 the 15th Division found themselves opposite, and required to take, the village and Château of Buzancy.

Other villages in the general area were also subjected to sudden bombardments over the preceding 18 hours. It was hoped that by midday on the 28th the Germans would have become wearied from the constant alerts for attacks that never materialised.

The plan was for five companies of the French 91e Régiment d’Infanterie (RI) to attack the wood and a stronghold south of Buzancy whilst the Scots would attack the village itself. The attack was fixed for 1230 hours and 8th Bn Seaforth Highlanders and 1/5th Bn Gordon Highlanders would lead the assault.

Despite the lack of cover for the advancing soldiers the Château was taken quite quickly, but the village proved to be a harder nut to crack and was reminiscent of some of the hard slogs on the Somme in 1916.

Almost every house in France has its cellar and the Germans had swiftly turned each in Buzancy into strongholds requiring the Highlanders to fight their way through the streets, house by house, cellar by cellar. Engineers were used to detonate charges whilst a French flame-thrower team proved their value in clearing the buildings.

By 1330 hours the Brigade had captured all of its objectives but on their right there was still no sign of the 91e RI. By 1535 hours, word had got through to General Reed in command of the 15th Division that the 91e RI had been held back by a strong point in front of it and could make no progress. This left the Highlanders in a precarious position.

German counter attacks and barrages were falling on them as they were forced to retire back across the open ground to prevent themselves being surrounded. Six hours after they had launched their heroic attack Highlanders found themselves back in their starting lines.

The Division counted the days fighting as one of the most gruelling it had ever undergone. No small words from a unit that had been in the thick of the fighting since the Battle of Loos in September 1915.

Before further plans to take the village could be formulated the 15th Division discovered that they were being moved to the right, swapping places with the French 87e DI.

A few days later following the German withdrawal and an Allied advance to the Vesle River, the 15th Division were finally brought out of the line and relieved by the French 17e DI.

15th Division Memorial at Buzancy

The inscription on the monument

 

The Monument

15th Division Memorial at Buzancy

In writing to General Reed some weeks later Général Gassouin wrote of his soldiers admiration for what the Highlanders had achieved at Buzancy, the evidence of their feat of arms being evident throughout the village. To this end he had requested his engineers to erect a small monument in honour of the gallant Scotsmen.

The monument was initially erected at the point to which the furthest fallen Highlander had fallen, however it has since been moved into the Buzancy Cemetery for safe keeping.

In a simple statement the inscription reads :

Here the noble thistle of Scotland will flourish
forever amongst the roses of France
17th French Division to
15th (Scottish) Division

 

Other monuments in the area