Chemin des Dames
North East of Rheims, on the A26, there is a signpost Chemin des Dames which depicts soldiers from the WW1 looking dishevelled. Which hardly seems to fit the title, so Wikipedia to the rescue.It acquired the name in the 18th century, as it was the route taken by the two daughters of Louis XV, Adélaïde and Victoire, who were known as Ladies of France. At the time, it was scarcely a carriage road, but it was the most direct route between Paris and the mistress of Louis XV, whom the two ladies visited frequently. To make the way easier, the count had the road surfaced, and it gained its new name.
So, the usual ‘niceties’ of the French court allowed everyone to be friends.
However, this does not explain the WW1 soldiers…
On 16 April 1917, a French army corps attacked the German line along the Chemin des Dames ridge. The objective, an end to the war in 48 hours (where have we heard that before), but they had underestimated the enemy’s defensive preparations. The final count, when the offensive was over, was 271,000 French casualties (dead, wounded, missing) and 163,000 German casualties.
So, the offensive failed. On 3 May, the dissolutioned soldiers French 2nd Division refused to follow its orders to attack, and this mutiny soon spread throughout the army. 27,000 French soldiers deserted in 1917.
The extent and intensity of the mutinies were disclosed for the first time in 1967 by Guy Pedroncini in his volume Les Mutineries de 1917. His project had been made possible by the opening of most of the relevant military archives 50 years after the events, a delay in conformity with French War Ministry procedure. However, there are still undisclosed archives on the mutinies, which are believed to contain documents mostly of a political nature; those archives will not be opened to researchers until 100 years after the mutinies, in 2017.
2017 – that’s this year: will they be released? Don’t hold your breath…
Author Jo: March 2017