Auberive Cemetery, Champagne Region, France
Inconnu Polonais - Armee Polonias - Mort pour La France en 1939/45 - An unknown Pole from the Polish Army, Died for France in 1939/45.
Auberive is an unusual military cemetery in that it contains the bodies of French, Polish and German soldiers - some 6.422 French, 385 Poles ( 129 from WWI and 256 from WW2) and 5.361 German.
To the north of Reims is the “Chemin des Dames”. This is another area of the Western Front where the most horrendous events took place. Just as Verdun, The Somme, Paschendale and Ypres are names to cause the proverbial hairs to rise on the back of one’s neck, so the Chemin des Dames has a similar effect.
The Chemin des Dames is a ridge roughly 14 miles in length that runs east to west above the valleys of the Aisne and Ailette and after their retreat from the Marne it was a logical place for the German Army to choose to turn and attempt to check the Allied advances. In years gone by aristocratic ladies riding their horses for a pleasurable run had used this ridge hence the name, which translates “way of the ladies”.
For most of the Great War the German army held the ridge. Endless attempts were made to remove them from it and this resulted in an enormous loss of life for the French.
The Chemin des Dames has many visible reminders of the war along its length. The Fort of Malmaison held a strategic position and at La Royere the part which colonial troops played in the Great War is recorded. At Cerny-en-Laonnais we find the little chapel, which is the official remembrance site for the Chemin des Dames and the Caverne du Dragon Museum on the spot where the Germans used the old quarry situated there as underground barracks. We find the Monument to the Basques in memory of the 36th Division most of whom hailed from the South-West of France. We find the Plateau de Californie affording magnificent views over the Aisne valley, which was the scene of the offensive launched by General Nivelle on the 16th April 1917. We find the rebuilt village of Craonne with its arboretum of Remembrance and the National Tank Monument, all these memorials interspersed with cemeteries and smaller monuments to the dead.
It is calculated that over 130,000 men lost their lives in this area and in the French, German, British and Italian cemeteries only half of the men who died could be identified.
I was very lucky to be able to take my grand-daughter Tegan on a trip to Europe over her recent half term.
We spent a few days in Germany, staying in the beautiful old village of Neumagen-Dhrone on the Mosel Valley, then a couple of days in Reims and a final few days in Paris. We had an excellent time :-)