Campaign History of the 151e Régiment d'Infanterie - VIII
~ 1915 ~
In the Argonne - Part IV (4-17 July)
4 July: The 2 Bat. and 3 Co. are relieved by 5 Bat/261 RI and move back to Florent, arriving at 0500 hrs. Lieut.-Colonel Moisson returns from furlough at 0500 hrs and retakes command of the regiment. The companies are reconstituted into one or two sections according to their remaining effective. Each battalion retains its autonomous companies while administratively forming two maneuver companies. A detachment of reinforcements of 334 troops coming from the 151 depot and arrives at Florent at 1400 hrs and is incorporated into the ranks. The detachment is comprised of:
3 Sous-Lieutenants: Mèche, Bérail, Chedal-Bornu
89 new recruits
Moisson also orders the following reassignments in order to ensure the command of the companies:
Sous-Lieut. Canrdeon of 8 Co. takes command of 1 Co.
Sous-Lieut. Royer of 8 Co. takes command of 2 Co.
Sous-Lieut. Maillard of 5 Co. takes command of 4 Co. Sous-Lieut. Mèche arriving with the reinforcements takes 10 Co.
Losses for the regiment on 4 July include 2 wounded (Sdt. Delecluse - CHR, Sdt. Pierron).
5-12 July: The regiment remains at rest at Florent. At noon, Lieut-Colonel Moisson leaves Florent to take command of the Fontaine-Madame sub-sector. Losses for the regiment on 5 July include 1 wounded (Sdt. Vincent (Josepin) - CHR).
At 1500 hrs on 6 July, the general commanding 32 CA reviews the regiment and awards two Médailles Militaires to Cap. Silvestre Queroy (6 Co.) and Sdt. Joseph Taraud (12 Co.).
The next day the regiment receives orders to march to Sainte-Menehould to billet. The regiment departs at 0500 hrs and arrives at its billets in the Valmy quarter at 0700 hrs.
Lieut-Colonel Moisson reorganizes the officer corps of the regiment and establishes a new command structure as follows:
Lieut-Colonel Moisson - regimental commander
Sous-Lieut. Coureaux - flag-bearer
Sous-Lieut. Choisie - officer paymaster
Sous-Leiut. Donsimoni - supply officer
Medecin-Major 1e cl. Idrac
Chef de Musique Hardit
Commandant Brugère - battalion commander
Medecin-Aide-Major 1e cl Mr. Ravard
1 Co.: Capitaine Chamaillard, Sous-Lieut Canredon
2 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Royer
3 Co.: Lieut. Noel, Sous-Lieuts. Lartigue, Chedal-Bornu
4 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Baron
Commandant Adamy - battalion commander
Medecin-Aide-Major 1 cl. Galon
5 Co.: Sous-Lieuts. Clément, Maillard
6 Co.: Lieut. Giboux, Sous-Lieut. Bajeux
7 Co.: Sous-Lieuts. Jauget, Derly
8 Co.: Lieut. Couplet
Commandant Berger - battalion commander
Medecin-Aide-Major 2 cl. Lair
9 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Guillot
10 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Mèche
11 Co.: Capitaine Le Boulanger, Sous-Lieut. Bérail
12 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Cristofari*
*(Cristofari is KIA 12 July 1915, though the JMO states it is 14 July)
At 0930 hrs on 9 July, the General Deville (42 DI) reviews the regiment at the Valmy quarter and awards three Médailles Militaires to Adjudant Menet (7 Co.), Cap. Herbin (7 Co.), and Sdt. Lemesse (8 Co.). The general also gives out Croix de Guerre to those designated. On 11 July, Lieut-Colonel Moisson reviews the regiment and awards additional Croix de Guerre.
On 12 July, with eight days rest at an end, the regiment is ordered back to Florent. Fortunately the men hit on some good luck as they won’t have to march with their packs, which are instead loaded onto twenty trucks. Departing at 2130 hrs, it arrives at Florent at 2330 hrs.
13 July: The regiment is put on alert at 1000 hrs after German forces had carried out a strong attack across the 42 DI front. At noon, the entire regiment marches to La Harazée in the order of 1, 2, and 3 Bat, where it billets for the evening at Camp Deville in reserve.
A reinforcement arrives in Florent coming from the 151 depot consisting of 15 officers 382 troops:
From the 151 depot: Commandant Moreau; Capt. Théodore Le Moing, Grisey, Payen; Sous-Lieuts. Erkins, Aubert, Leymarie, Riton, Guilnin, Guelfucei, Lestienne
From the 72 RI: Capt. Jouland
From the 351 RI: Lieut. Bizot
From the 116 RI: Lieut. Massé; Sous-Lieut. Le Gallo.
113 new recruits
(These men will not be incorporated into the ranks until 18 July).
The 2 and 3 Bats. are put on alert at 1700 hrs and receive orders to move to Ravin des Cuisines. The 3 Bat. leaves at 1730 hrs with orders to counter-attack from Ravin des Cuisines via the St. Hubert line ‘1N’, which the Germans had managed to take at 1800 hrs. The 2 Bat. receives its orders to move forward with Lieut.-Colonel Moisson himself commanding the counter-attack. The Germans again rely heavily on poison gas, along with a new weapon of destruction, the flame-thrower. These cause terrible losses in the French ranks, which had yet to encounter this type of weapon. Nonetheless, the companies of 3 Bat. cross over the crest that lies to the northeast of Ravin des Cuisines, moving via the line ‘1N’. The companies establish themselves in the covering trenches there and 2 Bat. remains in reserve in the Ravin. The 1 Bat. meanwhile remains in reserve at Camp Deville.
14 July: The regiment must attack at 0830 hrs in the following manner:
1) The objective of 1 Bat. (Cdt. Brugère) is the Tranchée de la Source and ultimately Blanleuil. It will have a section on the right bank of Fontaine-Madame in liaison with 128 DI, which must attack Cote 213 at the same time. It’s attack will only be launched once 128 DI has taken and occupied Tranchée des Mitrailleuses.
2) The 2 and 3 Bats. under the command of Commandant Adamy carries out an attack on Tranchée ‘IN’ which was occupied by the Germans. Passing over this trench, they move in the direction of the salient Tribouiller and establish a liaison with the 1 Bat. attack to the right, The 94 RI must attack the part of the line ‘1N’ in front of it.
At 0830 hrs the attack begins. The line ‘1N’ is taken and passed but the 94 RI being unable to make much progress due to machine-gun fire on its right and to its front, 2 and 3 Bats. must pull back somewhat and hold onto its ground. Starting with ___ of skirmishers are able to dig and the connecting line to the right and left of elements of the 261 RI and 94 RI.
A new attack is launches against a part of the line ‘1N’ still held by the Germans but machine-gun fire stops the checks the attack and the fight devolves into a fight in the communication trenches using grenades. Attempts are carried out to push the enemy from both sides 40 meters from the line ‘1N’. A new trench is dug during the night on the position maintained throughout the day and had been marked by the skirmishers fire.
The 1 Bat. remains in place all day, ready to move forward. The attack of the 128 DI having been stopped twice. Meanwhile, a detachment of officer reinforcements arrives at Florent coming from the 19 RI:
Lieuts. Bertrai, Cormier, Destrais, Salin; Sous-Lieuts. Guilbaud, Chartier, de Cacqueray.
Losses for the regiment recorded on 14 July include 17 killed, 157 wounded, 14 missing (198 total). The casualties recorded in the JMO include:
Killed: 1 Co.: Cap. Lejeune (Ernest) - 4 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Joseph E. Baron [not incl. in JMO, official KIA 13 July]; Sgt. Boilet (Raymond); Cap. Desbordes (Joseph) - 5 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Maillard; Cap.-Fourrier Bufferne; Cap. Giraud (Theophile); Sdt. Foulon, Lonoine [sp?] - 6 Co.: Cap. Lemoine (Jules); Sdt. Vangasse - 7 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Derly - 8 Co.: Sdt. Mevel, Helligouarch - 10 Co.: Adj.-Chef Daumas (Maurice) - 11 Co.: Puevot [sp?] - 12 Co.: Sous-Lieut. Cristofari [official KIA date is 12 July], Blois (Ernest); Cap. Lemaire (Robert); Adj. Contamine (013227).
Wounded: 3 Co.: 1 - 4 Co.: 5 - 5 Co.: 20 - 6 Co.: 19 - 7 Co.: 12 - 8 Co.: 7 - 9 Co.: 16. 10 Co.: 41 12 Co.: 34 MG Co.: 2.
Missing: 4 Co.: 1 - 5 Co.: 4 - 6 Co.: 1 - 9 Co.: 6 - 12 Co.: 2.
15 July: the day is calm. The 1 Bat., reinforced by two companies of 261 RI, relieves elements of 261 RI in the Fontaine-Madame sub-sector. The 2 and 3 Bats. occupy the St. Hubert sub-sector (a few hundred meters to the east of Blanleuil), as the companies are put back in order and their positions organized. Lieut-Colonel Moisson takes command at St. Hubert PC of the Marie-Thérèse sector. Around 2100 hrs, a fusillade erupts along the entire front but there is no infantry attack. The Germans do however bombard the French lines at different points along the first and second line trenches. Losses recorded for the regiment on 15 July include 4 wounded and 2 missing.
16 July: the day is calm on the regiment's front. The men actively work on organizing their positions. Meanwhile the Germans bombard the French positions at different points, though not causing significant damage. A detachment of reinforcements arrives at Florent composed of 1 caporal and 28 men, all Russians, coming from the 2e Etranger [Foreign Legion]. These men will not be incorporated into the ranks until 18 July. Losses recorded for the regiment on 16 July include 6 killed, 18 wounded, 3 missing.
17 July: The 1 Bat/151 RI is relieved at 0600 hrs by 3 Bat/154 RI and marches to Sainte-Menehould via Moiremont. At 1400 hrs, 2 and 3 Bats. are relieved by 2 Bat/154 RI at St. Hubert and Colonel Jeanpierre (154) replaced Lieut.-Colonel Moisson at Marie-Thérèse PC. The 2 and 3 Bats. arrive at Sainte-Menehould at 2300 hrs, with the regiment billeting in the Valmy quarter again. Losses recorded for the regiment on 17 July include 2 killed.
The relentless, grinding fighting in the Argonne Forest proved one of the severest trials the regiment would undergo in the war. It was seven consecutive months of bullets, bombs, grenades, mortars, shells, and mines. Cold, rain, and inescapable mud. Fever, sickness, frostbite, and trench foot. Broken limbs, torn flesh, blood, and shattered bodies. The cries of the wounded and the sight of dead friends. The fighting in the Argonne was as fierce as it was unpredictable. Surprise enemy raids caused the men to be ever-vigilant and caused great anxiety. Deadly mortars and hand grenades came over unexpectedly day and night. And underground mines were routinely exploded, sending earth, stones, and bodies flying into air.
The combat in "Slaughter Wood" would come to a horrible climax from 30 June to 3 July, when a general German attack crashed down upon the regiment's positions. In three days, over 1,300 men were lost -- roughly 40% of the effective -- the heaviest casualties the regiment would suffer in a single battle during the entire war. In total, the JMOs recorded over 4,200 killed, wounded, or missing in the Argonne -- a casualty rate of 130%. This number does not include the hundreds of men evacuated due to illness or frost-bite.