THE BATTLES OF THE CHEMIN DES DAMES
1. SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 1914 : From 13th September, French and English who carried on the counter-offensive known as the First Battle of the Marne went through the Aisne River and came up against the Germans who were sticking to the plateau of the Chemin des Dames. At the beginning of November, after fierce fights, the Germans managed to keep the whole control of the plateau.
2. NOVEMBER 1914-APRIL 1917: War of position. Even if during two years and a half the front staid stable in the Chemin des Dames area, bombings, patrols and “little helps” in the no man’s land (area between the trenches) kept causing the death of thousands of combatants...
3. 25th JANUARY 1915: during a limited operation, the Germans recovered the last position still held by the French on the Chemin des Dames; it was called the Creute farm attack (today’s Cave of the Dragoon).
4. APRIL-MAY 1917: The big offensive known as Nivelle’s offensive started on 16th April. This bloody failure provoked a huge crisis in the French Army. On 15th May Nivelle was replaced by Pétain at the head of the French armies.
5. SUMMER 1917: The observatories’ battle. This designation is used to define a multitude of operations and counter-attacks that were led to get the control of key positions of the Chemin des Dames, from Craonne to Laffaux.
6. END OF OCTOBER 1917: the battle of Malmaison. The limited objective of this attack was the capture of the former Malmaison fort, in the West of the Chemin des Dames, taken on 23rd October, which forced the Germans to desert the plateau of the Chemin des Dames and to withdraw to the North of the Ailette Valley.
7. May 1918: On 27th May a powerful German offensive started (Blücher operation) and plunged French and British armies in a few hours.
8. AUTUMN 1918: the allied counter offensive launched on 18th July (second battle of the Marne) reached Soissons on 2nd August. During the following weeks, fights raged in the centre and in the east of the Chemin des Dames.
The Germans definitely withdrew the plateau to the French and Italian troops on 10th October, one month before the Armistice.
THE CHEMIN DES DAMES IN WWI
With Verdun, the Argonne, the Somme and Ypres, the Chemin des Dames was one of the big battlefields of WWI. Most of the time its name is associated to the French offensive of spring 1917, but other battles took place in the Chemin des Dames. For four years, from the first weeks of the war until the last days of the conflict, dozens of thousands of men fell, on the sides or on the famous crests of the plateau that dominated the Aisne Valley (in the South) and the Ailette (in the North).