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Remembered Today:

Aisne- Chemin des Dames Battle May- June 1918


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Thanks to Andrew Hesketh's link on another thread:

When the Lantern of Hope Burned Low. The story of the 1/4th Northumberland Fusiliers (T.F.) during the German offensives of March, April, May, 1918. By Rev. R Wilfred Callin, C.F.

is now free to dowwnload: Click Here

This book has a number of good portrait photographs of men of the 4th Bn The Northumberland Fusiliers



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This webpage also has free access to Hanway Cumming's autobiographical account of hs experiences as CO of the 110th Brigade Leicestershire Territorials (21st Division) with an excellent section on the Aisne Battle:

A Brigadier in France 1917-1918

Author: Cumming, Hanway Robert, Click Here

Edited by David_Blanchard
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I've only just spotted this excellent thread. I have an interest in two casualties, Private Douglas Albert Henderson on the 1st East Yorks and 2nd Lt William Nainby, Lincs Regt, attd 62nd LTM Bty. The sons of tradesmen, they were next door neighbours who had also been at school together, although in different years. Although they joined different regiments, fate brought them together in the 21st Division. Nainby died on the 25th May (SDGW) or the 27th (CWGC). The telegram could have barely arrived in Brigg before it was followed by news of Henderson's death on the 28th. They are both listed on the Soissons memorial.

I have very little information about the circumstances of their death, so any extra details very gratefully received.

Looking forward to reading more.


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I know we spoke briefly a few years ago but it has been a pleasure to read this thread on the Chemin des Dames. I have no information to add to your post but I simply wanted to thank you for your teaching while at the Boy's School. I still remember my first visit to the PRO and the excitement of it, though I believe I slept all the way up and all the way down! I will never forget finding Burgess' War Diary, walking with you across Newfoundland Park or you jumping up in the coach at the Connaught Cemetery, demanding the driver to stop and showing us the relief of the land up to Mill Road. That was ten years ago. Since then, I have been able to take quite a few people down there (including my father who now spends most of his time with the WFA) and show them what you showed us, though without the obvious expertise! I now visit the Western Front once per month and the National Archives every half-term, the latter adding to my research on the Sturry War Memorial.

Regarding my research, was Hubert Ingleton a Langton boy?

Kind regards,

Steve Garnett

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Two more books with relevant sections.

The Second Battle of the Marne by Paul Greenwood - chapter 8

The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment by C.R. Simpson - Part 8, secton V

I can p-copy these and send them snailmail if you are interested - you'll have to give me your postal address by email

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Thanks for the kind words! There is a link to the website here with a link to Ingleton, as far as I am aware he was from Sturry. It's a while since I researched any of the Old Boys from the school, but I am still after that elusive portrait of W V Burgess in khaki.

Click Here

BTW I was awarded an MPhil ( Thesis title: ' The Annihilation of the British IX Corps on the Aisne 27th May 1918' - so no surprise there then!) last January and passed out, as it were, in June at Canterbury Cathedral.

So, at the moment I am working towards getting this thesis published, but will have to come up with a snappier title! Hence one of the reasons for this thread to spread the word.


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German photograph, I have just acquired of the 'Winterberg' on top of the Chemin des Dames. On the 27th May 1918 the East Yorks and the 4th and 5th Green Howards were stationed here, sometimes referred to as the Craonne Plateau. This gives a good indication of the rugged nature of the terrain on this part of the Chemin des Dames ridge, and the steep gradient.


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The two most 'celebrated' incidents of the 27th May 1918, were the stand made by the 2nd Bn The Devonshire Regiment at the Bois des Buttes and that made by the 5th (Gibraltar) Battery.


Last Stand of the 5th (Gibraltar) Battery by Terence Cuneo

26-27th May 1918, 5th Batteries gun position was overrun by German Infantry, the Battery Commander and two subalterns rallied the surviving men and with Lewis gun and rifles attempted to beat off the attack. Only four gunners survived.

(If anyone has come across a larger photograph, than the one posted above, I would be grateful if they would get in touch)

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Just seen this really excellent thread. My own interest is the 8th North Staffords, 56th Brigade, 19th Division. I know they were a bit late on the scene but they were involved in heavy fighting near Mery Premecy in early June - I have their War Diary. The front had moved back a bit by then from the position shown at the beginning of this tread. Does anyone have anything on this phase?


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Hello Chris

I have little bits and pieces on the actions post June, but really only a little bit more than can be found in the 19th Divisional History.


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So, at the moment I am working towards getting this thesis published, but will have to come up with a snappier title! Hence one of the reasons for this thread to spread the word.


I have been following this thread off and on but with great interest. I am interested in the French offensives here throughout the war . I would be grateful if I could be informed when your book is published.

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Extract from War Diary of 8/Border;



24th. The morning was spent in cleaning up the Camp. During the afternoon Coys. practised “Coy. in the Attack” and specialists had two hours instruction.

2nd Lt. H. Lansley reported for duty and was posed to C. Coy.

25th. Training. Specialists. Coy. in the Attack. Musketry.


26th. Church parade in the morning.

6.45 p.m. At 6.45 p.m. orders were received from Bde. to be prepared to move within one hour.

9.30 p.m. At 9.30 p.m. the Bn. moved to a position south of VENTELAY-BOUVANCOURT road about 800 yds. E. of VENTELAY and there awaited further orders.


27th. 1 a.m. At about 1 a.m. the enemy bombardment opened and a few HE and gas shells fell on our right. Orders were received to reconnoitre roads and approaches to CONCEVREUX ROUCY and GEYENCOURT. Our scouts were sent out.

6.35 a.m. At 6.35 a.m. orders were received to send one platoon per Co. to take up position astride the VENTELAY-ROUCY road in front of LA PAITE farm preparatory to Bn. taking up that line.

7.30 a.m. At 7.30 a.m. orders were received to move forward and take up a position to defend the bridge head at PONTAVERT. This task was allotted to C & D Coys. with A & B Coys. in support. At 8.30 a.m. orders were received to move forward and defend the bridgeheads between PONTAVERT and CONCEVREUX. There were eight bridges and dispositions were made so that each Coy. held two bridges.

9.30 a.m. At 9.30 a.m. the Bn. moved off. Between VENTELAY and ROUCY information was received that the Enemy were already over the River and Canal.

Orders were then received to send two Coys. forward at once to reinforce the 2nd SOUTH LANCS. in a line 100 yds. north of the village of ROUCY to the East of the ROUCY-PONTAVERT road. A & C Coys. were sent forward, B & D Coys. were ordered to remain in support in the vicinity of ROUCY. On arrival at Roucy at midday B Coy. was sent forward to reinforce the 11th CHESHIRES on the left of the 2nd SOUTH LANCS. and D Coy. was placed in close support to the 11th CHESHIRES to the west of ROUCY. Bn. Hqrs. were established in a sunken road immediately behind D Coy.

12.30 p.m. At 12.30 p.m. a message was received from C Coy. to say they were in position 150 yds south of railway N. of ROUCY and later a message from A. Coy. saying they had placed themselves under the 2nd SOUTH LANCS. and were occupying the northern slope of the BUTTE de MARCHANNE.

1 p.m. At 1 p.m. orders were received from Brigade to withdraw two Coys. into reserve to the top of the hill on the northern outskirts of ROUCY. B & D Coys. were withdrawn and held in readiness in BOIS de ROUVROY. Each Coy. sent forward an officer and small party to position held by 2nd SOUTH LANCS. and at 2 p.m. one Coy. was ordered to move forward into the line west of BOUFFINGEREUX. D Coy. went forward but were unable to advance owing to heavy MG fire and were ordered to fall back to their original position. A patrol was then sent out to ascertain the situation on the right and failed to return. The line appeared to have fallen back on the right but could not be located.

3. p.m. At 3 p.m. orders were received to move back about 300 yds and take up a position astride the VENTELAY-ROUCY road with our right resting on the BOIS ROUVRIY. D Coy. were placed on the right and B Coy. on the left of the road. Details of the 8th and 50th Divisions were collected and placed in the line on the left and also a small party of 11th Cheshires under Capt. WILKINSON. A number of MGs were collected and placed for the defence of the position. One MG and one LG were placed in a position to command the road. Lt. BLOOMFIELD went forward to the left front with four LGs but was forced to fall back on the main line.

4.30 p.m. At about 4.30 p.m. a number of the enemy emerged from the wood and rushed down the road cheering and shouting. They were soon repulsed and heavy casualties inflicted. Patrols were then sent out on both flanks but were unable to locate any British troops. Our position was reported to Brigade who told us to hang on. They were arranging to send up ammunition which however did not arrive.

5.30 p.m. At about 5.30 p.m. the Enemy commenced to encircle our position. He brought up heavy TMs and shelled the road and were in front of our position inflicting some casualties. They crawled out from the wood in front and started to snipe. At the same time they advanced through the woods on both flanks and started to enfilade our position with MG fire. At this point orders were sent to a party of 75th TM Battery who had been previously ordered to withdraw to LA PAITE farm, and await orders to come forward and deal with the enemy MGs in the wood. The runners failed to find this party and no more was seen of them.

7 p.m. At about 7 p.m. a Colonel from 8th Div. HQ. informed us that a French Regiment was moving up to reinforce us. By this time the position on our right made it imperative for the right flank to swing back. This was successfully done. The left of the line had by this time suffered heavy casualties and part of it on the extreme left consisting of mixed details of various units had broken and withdrawn. The Bn. continued to hold on to this position until about 10.30 p.m. By this time the position had become untenable. Enemy were seen in the farm 600 yds. north of BOURGOYNE and MGs were firing from our left rear. The Bn. withdrew to a position immediately in front of LA PAITE farm. On arrival at the position an order was received from 23rd Bde. to hang on to our line and informing us that a party of 50 CHESHIRES was coming up on our right flank. This party failed to reach us. Two runners were sent back to try and find the location of 23rd Bde. HQ but they failed to return. Immediately after taking up the position the enemy fired a Very Light from the valley about 600 yds to the NW of VENTELAY and numbers of the enemy were seen in the valley. These were dispersed by our rifle and LG fire. A patrol under Cpl. ROBINSON was immediately sent out who brought back identification from a wounded Enemy. Papers and identification were despatched to Bde. by runners who were fired on from VENTELAY and failed to find Bde HQ. Later two other runners were sent out to inform Bde. of our exact disposition but they were unable to get through and brought back information that VENTELAY was in the hands of the enemy. Lt. Col. de la PERELLE and Capt. BENTLEY then went out to the west of LA PAITE farm to reconnoitre a position to be occupied before dawn. They were fired on by an Enemy MG and it was apparent that the position was surrounded. After a brief consultation it was decided that an attempt should be made before dawn to break through and rejoin our troops.


28th. 1.30 a.m. About 1.30 a.m. the remaining troops were formed up on the road

Apologies for the poor formatting.


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Thanks another excellent account adding to the understanding of the battle,


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The Casualties of the British IX Corps 27th - 31st May 1918

8th Division casualties

Officers Other Ranks Total Source*

23rd Brigade

2nd Devonshire 29 552 581

2nd West Yorkshire 22 555 577

2nd Middlesex 27 578 605

24th Brigade

2nd Sherwood Foresters - 550 550

2nd Northamptonshire 20 600 620

1st Worcestershire 29 589 618

25th Brigade

2nd Rifle Brigade 27 744 772

2nd East Lancashire 24 496 520

2nd Berkshire 24 706 730

22nd Durhams (Pioneers) 19 474 493

* All the figures come from the various Regimental Histories of the battalions listed

21st Division casualties

Officers Other Ranks Total Source*

62nd Brigade

12/13 Northumberland Fusiliers 19

1st Lincolnshire Regiment 16

2nd Lincolnshire Regiment 20

64th Brigade

1st East Yorkshire Regiment 17 375 392

9th K.O.Y.L.I. 14 351 365

15th Durham Light Infantry 15 452 467

110th Brigade

6th Leicestershire Regiment 13 273 286

7th Leicestershire Regiment 19 503 522

8th Leicestershire Regiment 20 579 599

*These figures come exclusively from the Brigade War Diaries of the 62nd, 64th and 110th Brigades.

50th Division casualties

Officers Other Ranks Total Source

149th Brigade

4th Northumberland Fusiliers 23 581 604 War Diary

5th Northumberland Fusiliers 19 483 502 War Diary

6th Northumberland Fusiliers 28 632 660 War Diary

150th Brigade

4th East Yorks * 26 537 563 Regimental History

4th Yorkshire Regiment 27 621 648 War Diary

5th Yorkshire Regiment 26 658 684 Regimental History

151st Brigade

5th Durham Light Infantry 24 650 674 Regimental History

6th Durham Light Infantry 30 499 529 Regimental History

8th Durham Light Infantry - - -

* Regimental History states that on 31st May, 4th East Yorks strength of battalion was four officers and 105 other ranks. Strength of battalion on 26th May: 30 officers and 642 other ranks.

25th Division Casualties

Officers Other Ranks Total Source*

7th Brigade

10th Cheshire 11 289 300

4th South Staffs 14 201 215

1st Wiltshire 14 295 309

74th Brigade

11th Lancs Fusiliers 20 422 442

3rd Worcester 12 314 326

9th L.N.Lancs 11 365 376

75th Brigade

11th Cheshire 17 403 420

8th Border Regiment 14 257 271

2nd South Lancs 15 348 363

*All figures come from the Regimental History of the 25th Division

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To help provide an historical context to the area of the Aisne- Chemin des Dames. A little bit of background information.

‘<i><div align="center">Once a good battlefield always a good battlefield.’</i>


<div align="center">Rose B Coombs.</div>

Roughly 5 miles to the north of the Aisne River is the Chemin des Dames road. The ‘Ladies Way’ was built on the order of Louis XV in 1770 to ease the carriage of his daughters, Adélide and Victoire, on their way from the Royal Palace of Compiègne to the rural residence of their former governess, the Duchess of Narbonne, in the Château de la Bove near Bouconville. The Chemin des Dames bisects an area of land referred to as the ‘triangle mystique’ the apex is centred on the hilltop citadel of Laon with Soissons and Reims forming the base. Enclosed within this area three ancient provinces of Northern France meet: Picardy, Ille de France, and Champagne. These three regions form a crossroads connecting Flanders- and thus much of Northern Europe- with the Paris basin, and therefore most of France. Battlefields are perpetual here. Stretching for no more than 25 miles east to west, the Chemin des Dames is a microcosm of this area of Northern France that has been referred to as the ‘Cockpit of Europe’.

Julius Caesar in his history of the war against the Gauls mentions the capture of the fortress of Bibrax , held by the Remi tribe, near present day Berry au Bac. Napoleon fought his last successful battle at Craonne on the 7th March 1814, against a joint Prussian and Russian army under the control of General Blücher. The British Expeditionary Force fought here in September 1914 against the retreating German Army. The French Army under the command of General Robert Nivelle failed to capture the Chemin des Dames ridge during ill-fated French offensive of April 1917. Eventually the Germany army withdrew from the ridge after the attack by the French at Malmaison on the 23rd October 1917. By early 1918 the region had become almost a tranquil backwater, the frontline still ran across the Chemin des Dames, but actual fighting was desultory; a system of ‘live and let live’ prevailed amongst the French and German combatants. This period of calm was shattered in May 1918, when the 7th Germany Army attacked from the north.

The Second Battle of the Aisne (or Third Battle depending on who is counting) or the Chemin des Dames offensive (27th May to the 6th June 1918), as it is known in British Battle nomenclature, was the third phase of the German Spring Offensive of 1918. This offensive- code-named ‘Blücher’ - was planned as a diversionary attack towards Paris across the Aisne River, drawing French reserves away from covering the British Sector of the Western Front on the Somme and in Flanders. Once this had been achieved, with the French Armies falling back to the Marne to shield Paris, the main blow would fall on the BEF to the north. The British forces already weakened by the German offensives of March and April would then be driven back to the Channel, thus preparing the way for German victory in the west. Such was the strategic vision of the German High Command in late May 1918, and like the strategy that had governed the tactical victories of March and April, this strategy was subject to revision depending on the reality of battle.

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Good Day

I am sorry but there is a mistake in Rose B Coombs..Général Robert Nivelle never took the ridge ..he was sacked on 15 mai 1917 and replaced by Pétain...in fact followingg the defeat of Malmaison fort the German High Command decided to retreat on the Ailette river positions ( Ailette Stellung ) and so to leave the ridge of Chemin des Dames on 2nd November 1917.



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Thank you for the compilation of the casualty figures.

As regards the 27/05/1918 casualties recorded in the 6th N.F. War Diary.

I searched my own database of 6th Northumberland Fusiliers for actual deaths recorded by CWGC, for this date, for 6th N.F.

47 deaths are recorded for 27/05/1918. presumably these additional deaths were originally recorded as missing.

Among the Casualties is the padre:

Captain G. B. H. Bishop - C.F.

KIA 27/05/1918

Commemorated on the Soissons Memorial

45 of these names are commemorated on Soissons Memorial & 2 in cemeteries in the area.

In the days following, 2 deaths are recorded in Kologne, 3 in Niederzwehren & 2 in the area of the channel ports.

I presume that the figures of deaths for the other units were also in fact larger, as information about Missing soldiers was compiled.


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My interest is the 2nd Rifle Brigade here, if you need anything from their records on this let me know. By the way "Anger of the Guns" by John Nettleton has a picture of himself in there if you need it and he was a Rifle Brigade Officer. The book makes some interesting points in the difference in behaviour and attitude of Regular and Service Battalions.

Coming together nicely, good thread.


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Thanks Andy,

I have very little information with regard to 2nd Rifle Brigade, so any information would be a bonus.


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Hello Yves,

The mistake was not Rose B it was all mine. Thanks for pointing this out.


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Part of the Chemin des Dames Battlefield, most likely the French Sector, May 1918



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A Famous photograph of men from the 12/13th Northumberland Fusiliers mingling with french troop on the road to Jonchery at Savigny sur Ardre, taken on the 28th-29th May 1918. With a more modern day view of the same spot.


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That is amazing and is that really the same wall?


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the right hand wall is certainly the same. I love these then and now pictures. Thanks David. By the way have just picked up an original 25th Div history.

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