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Snif !!!

Discover Confrécourt and Vingré

Thank you to Michael 
for his written texts so kindly made available to site visitors 
in September 2016


First mentioned in 893,  established by the Benedictine abbey of St-Medard in Soissons as a small monastery and farm. Fortified during the 14thC. and measured about 110m x 80m. Huge barn 46m by 17.50 - known as the “La Grange du Diable”. Legend is that the Devil promised to build it in one night in exchange for the soul of the builder: however the crafty builder woke up the cock just as Satan laid the last stone and so saved his soul.

1914 11 Sept  von Kluck ordered the 1st Army to secure north bank of the Aisne and the following day the French 6th Army arrived on the hills above Ambleny to the south of the river and immediately managed to cross the river. By the 18t September they had gained a foothold on the plateau: on 20 September the Germans counter attacked and reached the Aisne at Fontenoy and Le Port. Maunoury ordered that Confrecourt must be held and Chasseurs secured ruined farm which was never again lost during war.

6th Army was decimated with 380,000 casualties in September: many regiments had suffered 70% and the Germans had experienced similar losses [ the 27th RI had only 862 men left from 3,000 by Sept 20th.

1915 - 1916 Lines stable with extensive use made of the limestone caves throughout the region for shelter.

1917 March 16 Germans withdrew to Wotan and Siegfried lines.

1918 May 27th German offensive ‘Blucher’ struck southwards through Vesle towards Chateau Thierry: the French clung to Confrecourt - the 327 RI took over the old trenches and withstood repeated assaults July 18th - Aug 20th Mangin counter-attack  liberates soissonaise.

1939-1945 the plateau was code named Terrain Guignol by the allies, and that on 5 April, 10 May and 12 June 1944 the Royal Air Force dropped weapons for the Resistance.



"... our troops have adapted themselves to the strange living conditions of underground life as the Troglodyte civilisation did. A sudden curve and a huge dark tunnel is facing us, a chaos of stone blocks. The great cave is there. It now  shelters 2 companies of French Infantry.

Like Roman catacombs, galleries open in. The main alley splits into irregular passages which lead down to deep rooms. Here on our right is the officers' circle and on the left the quartermaster's pad... A dry shelter, straw, bits of furniture, fire, it really is luxurious for those who are lucky enough to come back from the trenches. At the end of a passage suddenly appears one of the main rooms.

On the thick straw men are already having a rest. They belong to the company who was on watch and who fought in the front line trenches. Some soldiers have sunk into sleep... others are playing cards. Scattered candles light their faces... Some of them are taking advantage of a ray of light to write a letter using their bags on their knees as a stand.  - Julien Tinayre ,on 23rd January 1915

we are going as reserves in a rocky cave lit with acetylene. Unfortunately everything is far from being funny in those caves. Vermin is eating us alive and lice, flees, rats and mice are swarming. Moreover it is very humid and many soldiers become ill. - A. Lavollé - 4th Cuirassiers


"3 days in Vingré, in destroyed houses where our mates have settled, 3 day on the front-line on the plateau, at Point 150. The men on watch are packed, half next to the slits and the other half in the shelter. The battle is limited to few rifle shots on the opposite trenches and a few exchanges of shells against the minnenwerfer. We got on well with the Huns. We called out to each other and they threw us German newspapers in bottles and so we threw them French newspapers." - L. Cattois -42nd Infantry Regiment


"This morning I dreaded to have men with frozen feet in my section. There was ice on the mud and we cracked it as we walked in the trench... the company next to us has lost a man who got stuck in the mud.

Men are really exhausted, covered with mud and their clothes have taken the colour of beetroot fields. God! those beetroots!. We will have seen them from their top leaves down to their roots. Those which grow long stems swinging in the wind are shot at night as it seems as if they are walking... hallucinations! " - Lt Georges Thivel - 298th RI



"Chapelle du Pere [Paul] Doncoeur born 1880, became a Jesuit in 1898. Became chaplain 35RI - Marne, Aisne, Champagne & verdun. Seriously wounded on the Somme: 7 citations, Croix de Guerre, legion D’ Honneur.  After the war determined that the sacrifices should not be in vain and became the Chaplain to the French Boy scout movement but in 1940 like to so many patriotic Frenchmen who had served in WW1, he followed Petain and thereafter was tainted. He died in 1961.


... a sergeant in my company, Theo Potel, is an amateur painter and at the end of the cave we have made, in a big oval niche, a cross with Christ around which he has painted the light of the rising sun in a superb red. The inspiration which inspired our friend is superb: Christ wishes to be able to descend from the cross, neither his hands nor his feet are nailed. He is simply lifted into the air above us and is an allusion to God being delivered from the cross just as we French will soon rid us of these barbaric Germans.


On the two sides of the chapel Potel has painted flowers for us which has a beautiful effect. ... for light there are two small candlesticks each with four candles on the altar: two other big ones with six candles stand on either side of the altar. For decoration on either side there are two splendid fir trees.


... on the altar four vases holding Christmas roses which we found in the garden near the cave: two of the vases are German shell-cases, the other two jam-jars. The little things placed on the altar by our priest create a splendid effect.


Now comes the hour. The lights are glowing and the singers are near the altar ... our verger is a superb territorial called Furnon whose beard is at least 30 cms long is carrying a superb looking halberd made from the handle of a pitch fork, a German bayonet and a curved bill-hook. A huge crowd of men take their place in the corridor. Everyone gathers their thoughts and the mass begins.


The moment of the elevation comes: the piquet are carrying arms as the bugles have just sounded the call to arms. ... and then to finish the Mass we sing three verses of the Marseillaise. At that moment, it was so beautiful it brought tears to one’s eyes ..." - Christmas 1915 - Anon





AMORY family


1914 Sept 12 Leopold Amory, the farmer took a group of German cavalry prisoner in his farmyard but one of them escaped and they returned on the 20th and set fire to his barns. M Amory went out to release the horses but he was shot down as was his wife when she went to help him. Fighting broke out and the family and their servants were held in the garden overnight and the 13 month old baby died of the cold.


In the first four months of W.W.I. - from August to November 1914 - the French had lost 450.000 men - 30% of the total loss of the whole war.

By October 1914,  far from reaching Berlin they were stuck in the mud, without winter clothes, attacking relentlessly without any results and morale was low. General Villaret ordered strict discipline.


27 Nov       

German artillery bombardment destroyed a trench, forcing about 20 defenders to withdraw. Surprise attack took several French prisoners: at subsequent enquiry, Lt Paulaud denied having given order to retreat and they were found guilty.

Gen de Villaret decided to make example.

4 Dec

 Corporal Floch, Pvts Pettelet, Gay, Quinault, Blanchard Durantet, - 19ème / 298 R.I. were decimated.


"My dearest Lucy

When this letter reaches you I will have been executed. The reason: on 27 November around 5p.m. just as we were eating some soup after a violent 2 hour bombardment the Germans attacked and took me and two others prisoner. I used a moment of confusion to scramble away and escape the Germans. I followed my comrades and as a result have been accused of abandoning my post in the face of the enemy.

Yesterday, 24 of us went before the War Council. Six have been condemned to death, including me. I am no more guilty than the others but we are to be an example. My pack and belongings will be returned to you. I send my last hasty farewell with tears in my eyes. On my knees I beg for your pardon for all the pain and embarrassment I will put you through ...

Again my little Lucie, sorry. I must go to confession now and will hope to see you in a better world. I am innocent of the charge of deserting my post. If instead of trying to escape, I had remained a prisoner of theGermans, my life would be safe. It is fate.

My last thoughts, right to the end will be of you." -  Henri Floch



   " I'm writing to you my very last letter. It's all over for me. I don't have no more strength. Something happened to us in the company. 24 of us were summoned to the court martial. 6 of us are sentenced to death. I'm one of the 6 and just like my comrades I'm not guilty but our lives will be sacrificed for the others. My dear little wife, this is my last farewell. It's all over for me. This is my very last letter: I'm going to be shot for reasons I don't understand very well. The officers are wrong and we are shot by them. I'd never thought I'd finish my life in Vingré and on top of that be shot for such a trifling reason without being guilty at all. Such a case had never happened before. I'm buried in Vingré... "

    Pvt Quinault - Farewell letter to his wife, written in the cave where they were held the night before their shooting.


Pvt. Bersot - 60th Infantry Regiment - refused to wear the trousers of his friend shot dead on the battlefield right in front of him. Charged with: Disobedience while facing the enemy and shot..


Their comrades campaigned on their behalf and an enquiry in 1920 found that Lt Paulaud had given false evidence and they  were given a formal pardon in 1921.



In Mar 1915 Gen de Villaret (French military family since 13thC )was badly wounded near here and Gen Maunoury GOC 6th Army was blinded by same bullet thus ending his career [ he died in 1923 ] and D V in 1931



AMORY family


1914 Sept 12 Leopold Amory, the farmer took a group of German cavalry prisoner in his farmyard but one of them escaped and they returned on the 20th and set fire to his barns. M Amory went out to release the horses but he was shot down as was his wife when she went to help him. Fighting broke out and the family and their servants were held in the garden overnight and the 13 month old baby died of the cold.


There is a memorial in the garden behind the great barn.




Date de création : 03/10/2016 @ 15:24
Dernière modification : 03/10/2016 @ 15:40
Catégorie : - Discover
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