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August 11, 2019 at Chérisy (62) : Chérisy and Surroundings Remember! What about you?
Once again, this small village in the Hauts de France organized a series of commemorations in honour of the Anglo-Canadian troops more particularely for 22nd Battalion French Canadians (2nd Canadian Division) who liberated the area at the end of August-early September 1918. These actions, which were extremely costly, would be the starting point for the inexorable German retreat into the region.
Rare and very special commemorations.... we have contributed to their success!
101 years later, the municipality welcomed a detachment of Canadian troops as part of the heirs of its fighters, it was composed of 25 men and women of the Fusiliers du Saint Laurent who was honoured by the Droit de Cité (honour offered by a municipality to foreign troops by allowing them to march under their colours, music and weapons in the city).
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November 11th, 2019 - Join us at the regular commemorative ceremonies.
November 11th is always an opportunity to think of the sons of our villages, the foreign soldiers who crossed the seas and oceans to fight and defend our freedom together. It is also a time to think about their families. It is also an opportunity to forge, to reconnect with our history and heritage, and it is also a time of national communion and sharing. It is not just a simple day off. Let us not forget it, let us not forget them. The Association Ligne Hindenburg Sensée-Cojeul will of course take part in the ceremonies commemorating the Armistice of the First World War on this 11th November.
"1917" film by Sam Mendes - important tip : Don't read these lines if you haven't seen it!
First of all, a big thank you and bravo to all those who made this film about this period and this (almost) forgotten phase of the Great War possible and we salute the work and the certain courage to deal with something other than the Battle of Vimy, Cambrai, Arras, the Somme, Verdun, Ypres etc..., which certainly enjoy notoriety, but are far, very far from being the only sectors to have suffered... very far...
A small blow of mouth in passing : NO, NO and NO! this film and the period where the action takes place is neither relative to the battle of Bullecourt nor that of Arras as we have been able to read on several occasions! These events related are previous and precursors! We must not mix everything up! You will find a detail of the events here. Moreover, the story is even inspired by the battle of Ypres...so....
As you can imagine, we have (finally!) seen this movie with great interest and our opinions are mixed. And beyond the quality of the film, which technically there is no doubt about, just as there is no doubt about the game and the quality of the images and special effects..., we note a good number of inconsistencies and liberties taken in this film. Let's note in passing that the director, by the way, has the right! almost everything... it's a fiction! But... let's have fun...
Let's stick to the first seconds of the film which sets the context: The story takes place on April 6-7, 1917. In reality, on this date (since February 9) the Germans execute in front of the British (who really realize that on February 23) a great strategic withdrawal movement on the Siegfried Stellung (renamed Hindenburg Line by the British): the Alberich plan, consisting of retreating into strong defensive positions by practicing the scorched earth technique. On this date, on April 6th, in the sector, Croisilles and Ecoust ("Ecouste" for Ecoust Saint Mein, the villages we are talking about in this film) are both taken back on April 2nd and the British settle there and face the dreaded and not unknown Hindenburg Line and since April 4th, they have unleashed a deluge of fire on these same installations, thus prelude to the battle of Arras. So far, in broad outline, this is consistent with the introduction of the film, with however perhaps a chronological shift.
Weather forecast: On this 6th April 1917, temperatures will still be below normal seasonal levels... count on sleet and gusty wind, there may be snowfall. Snow that will still be able to hold on the ground up to 1 to 2cm because of the temperatures in negative places ... In the film, spring is already well advanced with the cherry trees in bloom (let's move on to the tree species not found in the great plains of the Pas de Calais) and the grass is very high...
Many geographical inconsistencies also : From the beginning of the film, General Erinmore played by Colin Firth indicates to the two heroes the road to take to join the 2nd Devonshire Regiment threatened of a carnage, west-east road towards the Bois de Croisilles (a grove at most in reality), passing by Ecoust... it is not the shortest road, indeed the men will almost have to turn back once in "Ecouste"...
The boys throw themselves in, we explain them to pay attention to the Germans who are still around and waiting for them... it's a trap! The pursuit started in reality from 23-25 February 1917, there was no German in the front lines facing the men, already all occupied by the British, so it was impossible that the fires were still burning and the milk fresh...
After having crossed this wide no-man's-land, the heroes arrived in the first German line: far too much concrete! No mason would have poured so much concrete in the first line under enemy bullets and shells! But it is indeed true that the German trenches were better organized, better built. All this concrete was only valid for the Hindenburg Line, because the Germans poured it well behind their front line and settled there afterwards.
Small anecdote of the 'German' rat bigger than on the British side: rather true. Indeed, some witnesses of the time tell that once they had gained a foothold in the trenches evacuated by the Germans, they found milk, bread and eggs in quantity.
It is also true that the Germans took everything they were interested in during their retreat, cut down fruit trees, felled trees on the roads, flooded the fields, and blew up houses, bridges, crossroads, cellars and possible shelters as well as setting up many traps. On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that they felled the cows (grazing peacefully close to the front line as they passed by...) which were far too precious at that time for milk and meat!
In reality, the pursuit of the Germans is mainly carried out by mounted men (horsemen, cyclists and some vehicles) except for a soldier of the Indian troops actually present in this sector (but without his horse): not seen.
Then you reach the gates of Ecoust by crossing a canal several metres wide... no canal within a perimeter of several kilometres actually. German snipers are firing and are present in the village! : The Germans are not actually there since April 2, 1917. One of the heroes falls on a civilian and a baby! All civilians were evacuated by the Germans during the initial phase of the Alberich plan. And even if the village seems huge in the film, Ecoust at that time has more or less 650 inhabitants, it is likely that we forget about it, let alone an infant. For the same reason, and it's a passage that bothered us quite a bit, no civilian corpse had to be there... even if nothing was rosy during this war, let's not make the Germans of the time look like they weren't... by the way, as far as the Alberich plan is concerned, this scorched earth policy behind the withdrawal was far from unanimous among the German general staff.
In Ecoust, you can hear a bell ringing in the early hours of the morning... all the bells in the corner were systematically put on the ground in 1916 by the Germans and sent to the blast furnaces in Germany.
The canal crossed at the entrance to Ecoust, which we advise our man to follow to reach Croisilles (no waterway, however small, leads to Croisilles from Ecoust), turns into a waterfall and rapids worthy of the best kayak spots... in the flat country: impossible! La Sensée is very close and leads from Saint Léger to Croisilles, but the source being located in Saint Léger... we are frankly closer to a muddy puddle (I know it doesn't make you dream) than to the white water seen in the film! Note in passing, that a Saint Léger - Croisilles route actually taken by the men in pursuit of the retreating Germans, would have been more realistic than a passage through Ecoust Saint Mein.
Arrived at the Croisilles wood, the guys of the 2nd Devon are singing sitting under the trees, our hero is exhausted and we understand him, behind them, and nobody notices his presence until the end of the song... we are supposed to have Germans in front and behind... and not a sentry?! In reality, the Germans were mostly entrenched in or behind the Hindenburg Line, with outposts that would effectively hold back the British troops even before the first assaults during the Battle of Arras which began on 9 April 1917.
We then see the men of Devonshire in a trench facing the Hindenburg Line which all knew at that time its impressively dangerousity, contrary to what we understand in the history of the film. As far as the terrain is concerned, there no worries, they have chalk everywhere... that must have been the case. However, the ground is clean! The British at the time fired more than two million shells in 5 days and this since April 4th.
The assault, a priori starting from the heights of Croisilles as we are led to believe, was aimed at a portion of the Hindenburg Line (still 3 km away) between Henin sur Cojeul and Fontaine Les Croisilles... Indeed of the few men who threw themselves there, very few returned unharmed...
In conclusion, if you intend to see our villages and fields... it's missed, if you want to see a good movie about the Great War, yes! But if, like us, you know a little bit about the local history and geography... very little chances that you will be allowed to fully appreciate this film. We remind you that of course all this is a fiction, and that we just played the little game of noting the inconsistencies of the images and we renew to Sam Mendes to these teams and his actors our congratulations for this film for the reasons expressed above ...
On November 11th, 2021 Croisilles village hall, find us after the screening (16:00) of Sam Mendes' film: 1917, about the German retreat on the Hindenburg Line during their Alberich plan of February-March 1917. Following the projection, the president of the Association Ligne Hindenburg Sensée-Cojeul proposes you a decoding of the film with regard to the historical facts really unfolded in the surroundings of Croisilles - Ecoust - Bullecourt... Booking (start 02/11) at the Maison des habitants from Croisilles
All Saints' Day weekend, November 1st: French National Remembrance Day Quest, give!
Le Souvenir Français, participates daily in the duty of remembrance in particular by renovating and maintaining the graves of our abandoned Poilus. All Saints' Day (1st November) is traditionally the time chosen to contribute the generosity of the population to help the association to carry out its operations. They fell for all of us, let's not forget it, let's not forget them!
Some of our members, also active in the ranks of the Souvenir Français (committee of Arras and surroundings) are taking part in this All Saints' Day weekend quest, please reserve the best welcome for them, in advance, thank you.