1914 - French Battles

On 28th August 1914, the 62nd French reserve infantry division fought tragically in the areas of Sailly-Saillisel, Rocquigny and Le Transloy. There, 1 200 French soldiers were killed during a confrontation which lasted less than two hours. The Germans lost only 150 men. More than 800 soldiers from Poitou, Charente and the Creuse are buried in a communal grave in the cemetery in Le Transloy. In 1921, a monument, financed by the families of these soldiers, was erected in front of the grave and marble commemorative plaques bear the names of the 792 registered deaths.

28th August 1914 - Le Transloy

The roll of honour of the priests and seminarians of the diocese of Arras who died for France –Chérisy. In the village church of Chérisy we can see an example of a roll of honour erected by the diocese of Arras in order to commemorate its priests and seminarians who died during the Great War. This roll of honour shows the names of 33 priests, 28 pupils of the « Grand Seminaire and 7 pupils of the « Petit Seminaire » who died against the enemy as a result of injuries, in captivity or having been shot. Today, not many people get to see these rolls of honour as, apart from Chérisy's village church, they can only be seen in four other churches in the Pas-de-Calais : Campagne-les-Hesdin, Hersin-Coupigny, Lestrem and Sailly au Bois.

3rd October 1914 - Courcelles-le-Comte

In this village a French necropolis can be found which honours the memory of the soldiers who fell from 28th September to 3rd October during bloody fighting linked to the « Race to the Sea ». This expression refers to the battles which occurred in September and October 1914, where a series of manoeuvres took place going up towards the North Sea coast. One of the actions of this race took place here. The dragons of the 27th Regiment recaptured the village on the 28th September. Fighting was fierce and on 3rd October the soldiers of the 16th, 26th, 30th and 32nd territorial infantry and the 48th infantry attempted to stop German advance. Between 2 000 and 2 500 French soldiers perished. This blood bath contributed towards the defense of the town of Arras, a town that the Germans could not manage to seize. In Courcelles le-Comte, a monument bears the names of hundreds of soldiers who fell during the fighting and an ossuary holds 275 bodies. Around this ossuary, 38 gravestones of the soldiers who have been able to be identified have been erected.

1916 – The Battle of the Somme

Between Bapaume and Albert, in the area of Warlencourt-Eaucourt, can be found the Butte de Warlencourt, a hillock with a view for miles around. The German army set up an observation post there and transformed it into a true fortress.  The Butte de Warlencourt became a major objective for the British army who attempted to recapture it several times in October and November 1916. These battles were a real ordeal for the British who spent the winter in the cold and the mud.
This struggle became an obsession for the soldiers. The Butte was abandoned by the German army in February 1917 with the withdrawal towards the Hindenburg Line. Recaptured by the Germans in March 1918, it was liberated once and for all in August.

In 1990, a memorial was unveiled by the Western Front Association. Along the road which leads to the Butte in the direction of Bapaume, the Warlencourt British Cemetery shelters the bodies of 3 505 soldiers of the Commonwealth 1 823 of who have not been identified.

La Butte de Warlencourt

Between Bapaume and Albert, the Butte de Warlencourt can be seen , an ancient Roman tumulus around ten metres high which gives a view for miles around. The German army set up an observation post there and transformed the hillock into a true fortress. This became a major objective for the British army who attempted to recapture it several times in October and November 1916 in the cold and the mud, a real ordeal for the soldiers. The Butte was finally abandoned by the German army in February 1917 with the withdrawal towards the Hindenburg Line. Recaptured by the Germans in March 1918, the Butte was liberated once and for all in August.
In 1990, a memorial was inaugurated by the Western Front Association. Near the Butte, the Warlencourt British Cemetery shelters the bodies of 3 505 soldiers of the Commonwealth, 1 823 of whom have not been identified.

1917 – The Australian Sacrifice

In April 1917, the Allies envisaged the breaking up of the Hindenburg Line thanks to two simultaneous offensives : one French at the Chemin des Dames, one British in Arras. General Gough proposed an additional attack between Bullecourt and Queant. Gough was counting on a new weapon, the tank, to create a breach in the German lines in which the Australian cavalry would step into. His attack was launched on 11th April at 4.45am. The Australians made their way towards the German lines, accompanied by 11 tanks. As the tanks were not very reliable, they didn't play any significant part. The infantrymen and the cavalry went forward therefore with no support and were decimated by the German artillery. Very few Australians managed to regain their lines : the 4th Brigade lost 2229 out of 3000 men. Not one battalion was left in fighting condition.

The French offensive at the Chemin des Dames failed and the British were requested to relaunch attacks near Arras.The Australians of the 1st ANZAC corps attacked at the second battle of Bullecourt on 3rd May at 8.45 am. The result was derisory : the survivors managed to take possession of a 400 metre portion on the German front. On 6th May, the 7th British Division linked up with the Australian position. Fighting ceased on 15th May. The second battle of Bullecourt cost the lives of 7 000 Australians, for a derisory result : that of taking and holding a minute portion of the Hindenburg Line.

Today, the village of Bullecourt is one of the foundation places of the Australian nation. Around 10000 soldiers of the AIF were killed or wounded there. Homage is paid to them by a memorial park in which a statue stands representing a ''Digger''. This name was given to the Australian soldiers meaning the one who digs (in order to shelter from enemy fire). Every year, on ANZAC Day, on 25th April, a ceremony is organized by the Australian Embassy in homage of all the Australian soldiers who died during the Great War.

Statue en hommage aux soldats australiens venus en soutien durant le conflit de la Première Guerre Mondiale : le Digger.Cliquez sur l'image pour zoomer
Statue en hommage aux soldats australiens venus en soutien durant le conflit de la Première Guerre Mondiale : le Digger.

The Memorial Porch and the Bois des Fourcaux (High Wood) - Martinpuich

As it was very powerfully fortified, the village of Martinpuich was a pivot of the German defense system and the scene of violent fighting. It was taken from the Germans by the 15th Scottish Division (from September 1916 to August 1918).
On the village square, the memorial porch was a gift from the British in 1925. Another gift was the shelter over a part of the square so that the people of the village could meet up together. On the benches under this cover are plaques with inscriptions.
The Bois des Fourcaux (« High Wood ») was a place of violent fighting between the Scottish and Germans during the Battle of the Somme. Fighting began on 14th July but the wood was only entirely captured by the British 47th Division in September, when tanks were used for the first time.
Several memorials have been erected :
The « London and High Wood Extension Cemetery » contains 4 040 British, Canadian, Australian, New-Zealander, South African, Indian and German bodies.
The memorial to the Camerons Highlanders and Black Watch pays homage to the Scottish who died there after a mine explosion. We can still see the crater.
A cairn, made of 192 stones from Scotland, honours the memory of the 192 men of the Glasgow Highlanders who lost their lives on 5th July 1916 at the edge of the wood.

The Australian sacrifice - Bullecourt

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