Last Trip of 2012 – La Tranchée des Baïonnettes

Our next stop was at this (in)famous monument.

Is it reality? Or a legend? Or maybe a mix of both? I found some information on this website:

History intermingles with legend concerning the Tranchée des Baionnettes. On the 12th of June 1916, this entrenched position was a part of the terrain forming a salient west of Fort Douaumont which the Germans wanted to take before launching their main offensive on the 23rd.

Two battalions of the 137th Infantry Regiment, deployed at the front since the 10th of June, were the object of appalling shelling and very soon found themselves cut off. The regiment’s third company had lost 94 of its 164 men by the night of the 11th. The remainder had been placed in row of exposed trenches directly observable by German artillery spotters. The artillery fire on the position increased in the early morning hours and the remainder of 137th Regiment was annihilated almost to a man. Author Alistair Horne tells what subsequently transpired.

It was not until after the war that French teams exploring the battlefield provided a clue as to the fate of 3 Company. The trench it had occupied was discovered completely filled in, but from a part of it at regular intervals protruded rifles, with bayonets still fixed to their twisted and rusty muzzles, On excavation, a corpse was found beneath each rifle. From that plus the testimony of survivors from nearby units, it was deduced that 3 Company had placed its rifles on the parapet ready to repel any attack and — rather than abandon their trench — had been buried alive to a man there by the German bombardment. When the story of the Tranchée des Baionnettes was told it caught the world’s imagination.

Quite a gruesome story… There are lots of arguments for and against it, but whatever it may be – reality or legend -, one thing cannot be denied: some men died here.

2 Comments

  • aishahhussein January 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I’m in love with history but sadly that also curses me to be depressed when it comes to learning of the deaths of so many, especially during a plague, natural disaster or war. You’ve captured some stunning angles of an otherwise plain space. I appreciate your decision to make them black-and-white too; somehow makes me *feel* the quoted story better.

    And, I hope the spirits of those men rest in peace.

    Reply
    • Ingrid D. January 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      I hope so too… And welcome to our blog!

      Reply

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