THINGS TO DO

A land of Memory

For three years our region hosted the closest battles to Paris. That’s why, after the First World War, our region was considered as part of the “Red Zone” (lands provisionally or forever unfit for any culture). Several dozen of memorial sites dot our countryside as the last witnesses to war to remind us and to never forget.

The Espace Découverte Interpretive Centre

Situé à proximité de l’église, c’est un lieu moderne d’accueil, d’éveil à l’histoire locale et de ressources. Il vous fait découvrir la ligne de front en évoquant le conflit historique, au travers d’outils de nouvelle technologie et appréhender la vie des soldats et des civils durant cette période.Located in Rethondes, this Interpretive Centre

 

 

logo Musée Territoire 14-18Label centenaire 14-18

THE FRONT BETWEEN THE SOMME AND THE CHEMIN DES DAMES

 

At the end of August 1914, the First German Army invaded the Oise and Soissonnais regions. The army marched beyond the cities of Compiègne and Senlis, they turned towards the east of Paris in order to surround the French troops. The latter, helped by the Brotish, brought the imperial stampede to a halt with the Battle of Marne (5 to 13 September 1914). The invaders in their turn beat a retreat and withdrew to the right bank of the Aisne, on the plateaus to the north of Attichy. Terrible battles ensued up until the 20th of September, without any major changes to the situation. A new strategy was needed, and it would consist of multiple outbreaks from the west wing that would stretch the front as Belgium by November 1914. The front was fixed and three of our villages passed under German occupation. Their civilians were gathered together and evacuated. The French, in spite of the Battle of Quennevières in June 1915, were only able to retake one of these villages more than a few hours during the all occupation.

The Oise was liberated first in March 1917 during a strategic German withdrawal. However, new offensives in Spring 1918 plunged our communes back into the torment of battles and destructions. It was only at the end of August 1918 that Nampcel, the last occupied village, was liberated by the French tanks. A few weeks later, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the bells of Rethondes were the first to sound the ceasefire.

In following the old frontline, the Musée Territoire 14-18 lets you discover burial grounds, quarries, memorials and 19 walking routes that display mine warfare, the use of assault tanks, stories of the executed, the German occupation, the encampment in the quarries (some are open to visitors) and the life of civilians in the French villages near the front…

 

Mound of the Zouaves, Moulin-sous-Touvent

Situated at the site called “Le Champignon” (mushroom) during the First World War, the Mound of the Zouaves appears to owe its name to the significant presence in this battlefront zone, from 15 September 1914 onwards, of troops coming mainly from Africa, notably the Zouaves (from Algeria and Tunisia) and the Algerian infantry (the 37th Infantry Division).

Under this bomb-mound rest four soldiers, three of whom were French engineering sappers buried alive after the explosion of a German mine on 23 December 1915, causing the collapse of the tunnel that they were charged with extending beneath the imperial lines.

A symbol of the mine warfare that raged in the area, the Mound of the Zouaves, listed as a Historical Monument, pays tribute to all these men on the Oise frontline.

 

Butte des Zouaves, Moulin-sous-Touvent

Memorial at the Mound of the Zouaves, Moulin-sous-Touvent

Beside the grave-mound, the National Memorial, the only place dedicated to the Zouaves in France, honours these soldiers of the African army who participated in all the conflicts in which France was involved.

 

 

Kronprinz Shelter, Nampcel

This bunker was built by the Germans between 1915 and 1916 with the stone from the houses of Nampcel village. It was designed to shelter a Regimental Command Post. Its location on the opposite slope was ideal to protect the officers, who enjoyed every possible comfort at the time, including electricity and chimneys.

The origin of the designation “Kronprinz” is still blurry… In 1917, an article in a newspaper attributed its construction to the Kronprinz Ruprecht of Bavaria, last Crown Prince but nothing can prove that hypothesis. Whatever the reason, this shelter bears exceptional witness to the sophistication of German fortresses during the Great War. Today, it is restored and promoted by the APRAK (Association for the Renovation of the Kronprinz Shelter).

Many of our walking routes pass by these places and others. Do not hesitate to ask for information. It is our pleasure to point you to the most remarkable and observable marks.

 

The Guard House Quarry, Tracy-le-Mont

This quarry owes its name to the guard house of the Offémont estate a few hundred metres away, from where General Nivelle oversaw the battle of Quennevières in 1915. The soldiers very quickly started using the estate as an encampement. Inside its walls they found much-needed rest and were protected from shells by the thick layer of limestone soil that separated them from the surface. It is also here that were kept the bottles of chlorine gas designed to be sprayed towards the German lines. You can still find a significant amount of graffiti done by soldiers.