Edenbridge Kent, TN8 Kent, garden of England Property kent places of interest Kentish Town Edenbridge Business South East English Tourist Board
Hever Castle, Penshurst, Chartwell, Chiddingstone South East England Home Community Business Leisure Local Places of Interest Information Travel
Failure at Chemin – Des Dames!
edenbridge
edenbridge
Business Direct
Direct Links
Bonfire Night
Bonfire Night
Charities
Charities
Eating Out
Eating Out
Edenbridge Initiative Eden Initiative
Police Eden Police
Education
Education
Ethics
Ethics
edenbridge
Fun & Games
Getting Around
Getting Around
Health
Health
Help in a Hurry
Help in a Hurry
History - in the past
In the Past
Leisure Leisure
Local
Local
Maps
Maps
Places of Interest
Places of Interest
Sevenoaks District Council
S.D.C.
Travel
Travel
edenbridge  
Contact Us
Contact Us
edenbridge
 Advertise with us
kent
Kent
THE ROAD TO WAR -
Kent
 
Failure at Chemin – Des Dames!
 
There were many great and ferocious battles fought all along the front line that continued to kill, maim, disfigure and destroy hundreds of thousands of soldiers on all sides during this World War. But no would give in to the enemy whatever side they fought on. The Generals, governed by the war cabinet, the High Command, the Government of each their own country decided what their final and conclusive decision would be…”It is going to be, whatever the cost in men for us, is to Win…!
At the beginning of 1917, the Allies still believed that they could win this war quickly despite the continuing heavy losses. Also, that this year they were very confident they could do it.
The British Army had grown in strength to nearly 60 Divisions, 3, 000, 000 men, the French had 100 Divisions totaling 5, 000, 000 men, despite their horrendous losses at Verdun, they felt invulnerable to the enemy with such massive numbers. They were all in all with their diplomacy (with each other), final tactics and plans…this and for the last battle of the war, that this time a victory would be conclusive and the enemy finally crushed!
 
One of the great offensives of 1917 was to be fought was at Chemin des Dames, General Nivelle had come up with the idea of a quick breakthrough of the German front, his plan
French soldiers marching to the front line
was to secretly assemble an enormous mass of artillery guns all along the chosen line of attack, then open fire without warning on the front line German defences, but also far into the trenches behind, the intention was to destroy all the heavy artillery batteries and communications lines, thus the Germans could not get any more troops up to reinforce the front, in effect it would paralyze them.

French troops ready to fight the onslaught at Chemin de Dames
 
 
(Left) General Nivelle and the French Generals leaving, after the final decisions and tactics for a battle made.

(Bottom) The incredible size of this massive French gun could allow a man to crawl up inside its barrel...!
 
 
At the same time as the French barrage started his French infantry troops would move forward at a distance of only 70mts (200 feet) behind the rolling barrage, a curtain of dangerously exploding shells, this plan also meant that hopefully all the Germans would be destroyed in front of them. When they had taken the front line trenches a mass of reserve troops would pass forward to the next German line of trenches and continue on until, all the enemy had been killed.
The British would start their attack on the same German front line one week earlier at Arras, this it was hoped would draw off any German reserves away from Nivelle’s attack at Chemin des Dames, and give them a better opportunity to capture their part of the sector.
But the Germans had already made their own plans, while indecisions were being made by the French and British High Commands the Germans had withdrawn 29 Divisions, 1, 450, 000 men from the area where the British were to attack, and stole back 30 miles of land to secure themselves a new and much stronger position, which the Allies later called the Hindenburg Line. But the offensive went ahead on 9th April 1917
 

A British artillery guns and crews…shelling enemy lines
 
The British strike on the northern flank was really to no avail they could not draw off the enemy as planned by Nivelle, with no enemy to face as they had gone it was declared it a success, for the Allies. This was now a positive setback to the French Generals plan…Because, word had leaked out to the Germans of the coming French offensive of which General Nivelle had planned, as the Germans sent out aerial reconnaissance planes, and found the spot where Nivelle’s intended attack would take place. The Germans moved their 42 infantry divisions 2, 100, 000 men up to the line, with 2, 451 artillery guns placed in position.
The French had 46 divisions 2, 300, 000 men and 3, 810 artillery guns already placed.
Nivelle’s optimism remained firm, as did the infantry of his soon to be attacking army.
The attack began on 16th April 1917, it started off well, but soon was overcome with disasters, there was no “secret” that he had promised and had blatantly spoke about, the infantry floundered within a short time, the supposed destruction of the barbed wire did not transpire for it all remained intact. As for all the Germans being hopefully killed was an utter failure, as German machine-gunners began to massacre the advancing French infantry in thousands. The wounded returning from the battle was horrendous and appalling, it was a complete disaster…just as “The Battle of the Somme” had become.
A massive French railway gun, which needed a crew of over 50 men to fire it
General Nivelle, undisturbed by the amount of casualty figures demanded another attack the next day and to maintain the attack as planned, by keeping on pressing forward.
By 20th April, the offensive had partly brought success for 20, 000 Germans were now prisoners, and some land reclaimed. He had planned another big push on 25th April, using all the reserves available, the Government alarmed at the Generals determination demanded him to wait, he did.
When the attack finally commenced on 6th May, it remained another failure, the barbed wire had not been destroyed, nor had the Germans been killed, they had recovered enough to bring out the machine-gunners and created havoc, again killing thousands of French infantry.
 
After another failed attempt by Nivelle, the French government could not tolerate him any longer, so it was decided to replace him, on 15th May his position was immediately taken over by Field Marshal Petain.
The effects of Nivelle’s battle plans were horrendous as the casualty figures came in, during the month of April the French Army had admitted they had lost 100, 000 men officially killed.
But unofficially the figure was double that, 200, 000 estimated killed, when the final calculations were calculated!

The French dead lie buried at a Memorial (C/Right…Ian R. Bridle)
 
The infantry decided they had, had enough and decided to mutiny, the results of this created a terrible effect on the troops affecting over 54 Divisions, 2, 700, 000 men, they felt like “lambs to the slaughter” and in truth they were, the French High command needed to stop this and eventually it was quelled by offering them better pay, home leave, better rations, better family allowances to their wives.
 
The ringleaders 55 in total were executed, 300 men were sent to Devils Island the notorious prison, another 20, 000 were court-martialed.
By the autumn of 1917 the R.F.C and the French Air Force were now in command of the air over the Western Front, after many “Dogfights” and many losses on both sides, they had now proved to be masters of the skies.
The tank proved itself to be a winner albeit its slowness, but the British and French were now putting them into full production in both countries.
Many great and fearsome battles and offensives would continue to envelope France and Belgium and would bring the casualty list to many more hundreds of thousands being killed.
This war would continue in its ferocity, draining the life-blood from the very heart of young men from every nation…until it finally ended in 1918.
Battles such as Passchendaele, Ypres, Loos, Le Cateau, Arras, Vimy Ridge.

   

Vimy Ridge after being taken by the Canadians…Victory at last…but severe tragic losses!
 
(Left) Vimy Ridge….a magnificent Memorial to the Canadians/ A woman weeps for her lost children of Canada (Copyright of Ian R, Bridle…www.edenbridgetown.com)

Some of these great battles had already taken place and many more were soon to follow, which would soon suck the lifeblood from the young being continually thrown into the quagmire of death, the killing would continue in Belgium exactly the same as it still continued in France.
Many towns and villages would be completely razed to the ground, and erased from the map by the terrible destructive shellfire.
Thousands upon thousands became refugees in their own land. They packed up the few meager possessions that could be salvaged from the rubble of their shattered houses, loaded them onto prams and carts and trudged through the debris covered streets to the next town or village, that hadn’t been scarred by war, desperately trying find some food, shelter and refuge for their tired shattered souls. When they arrived back in their towns and villages after being away for months…There was nothing there but the complete ruins of their houses, everything had been destroyed!
 
 
The terrible tragedy of total warfare would become a sign for the coming years of war, an evil omen of the horrors that millions were about to be confronted with, in the near future...!
At the end of “The Great War” millions had been savagely killed, maimed, disfigured, gassed, blinded, and shell shocked, by every evil device invented to kill their fellowman.
(Left) French fleeing their homes from the German advance
 
French Giant Shell French large mortar German Giant Artillery shell, 190kgs
(All colour images copyright of www.edenbridgetown.com)
The hope of mankind thereafter in 1918 at the end of the “Great War” was, that this was finally the end to all killing the “The War to End all Wars”…yet as this war concluded with the killing of so many millions, and so horrifically…the next war was in its early stages of conception.
Governments would take the lead in trying to implement a peaceful world, or so it seemed, this gave mankind some reassurance that at last there could be an answer to mankind’s ever growing strife, and that peace could be achieved at last, but it was to become a sad and disturbing illusion, not only for the governments who seemed to promote peace, but for all mankind.
Many people including Politicians, Leaders, and High Ranking Officials had stated that they really didn’t understand why they all went to war in the first place as it seemed an utter waste of millions of men.
These millions of soldiers were promised by the leaders and politicians, even before they had set foot on the soil of France, that when they returned from the horrors of war…”They would return to a land fit for Heroes”.
As the battle weary soldiers returned home at long last, they were met with rejoicing by crowds of well wishers, and ecstatic joy by their families and children, that many had not seen for months or years, it was an unbelievable joy for them all.
But as time passed these ex-soldiers had returned to a land to face more horrors, of unemployment, uncertainty, and many to be unwanted, they had suffered more than anyone could ever imagine, and were unable to regain their old way of life and now lived in complete despair.
For those maimed by the war their loss was far greater plight, they couldn’t find work because they had lost limbs and became unemployable, but found themselves in depths of despair trying by any means to earn money to feed and clothe their families.
Literally hundreds would beg in the streets for a few pence, standing on street corners or sitting all day in their wheelchairs in all weathers trying to sell boxes of matches or leather bootlaces for a pittance, just to buy crust of bread to feed their families. The wicked injustices against them, was a disgraceful and despicable display by the British Government, for they had given these men, no rewards, no life, and certainly…No Hope…and certainly “Not a Country fit for Heroes”… which they had so surely promised…!
It was a wicked and evil tragedy for all these men, more so for their families and loved ones left behind to worry about every minute, every hour, let alone every day.
These men, these boys… had been prepared to fight and die for their country and in its time of need they had given their very best and how they suffered. We will never know how much each and every man and boy could take in the throes of war, killing, fear and death all around, as everyone was completely different and suffered accordingly, and now it was most certainly Their time of need…they received no help of any description from the Government or the country that they had fought for.
These poor men, these Heroes of England, of Britain it’s Commonwealth and of Northern Ireland…in all their wretched suffering and misery, they had been, lied to, cheated and deceived.
They would never recover, at their last breathe, they would go to their graves broken in heart, soul and spirit… destroyed men…!
All in all….the recovery from the “Great War” began with salutations and peace offerings from Governments, Political Leaders, Army Generals, Military Officials, Presidents, Kings and Queens…all around the world.
It in itself would never recover from the devastation wrought upon the earth by this war and the loss of life that mankind had completely Lost since 1914…!


All colour images sole Copyright of www.edenbridgetown.com
   
Back..........
Edenbridge, Kent TN8 Community and Business web site Member of SEETB
Edenbridge, Hever, Westerham, Chiddingstone Bonfire Night, Leisure Centre, Museum South East England
All Rights Reserved © 2001 www.edenbridgetown.com Telephone: 01732 864070 E-Mail:info@edenbridgetown.com
Terms Contact Us E-Mail Us