Campaign History of the 151e Régiment d'Infanterie - XIX
~ 1917 ~
Recovering and Refitting - (7 November 1916 - 14 April 1917)
7-12 November: The regiment remains in its billets at Guy Saint Fiacre, Dampierre, and Saint Aubin, with the men cleaning their uniforms and equipment. On 10 November, a detachment of reinforcements arrives from the Divisional Depot accompanied by Lieut. Drapeau, Sous-Lieuts. Meunier and Nétoyer (previously evacuated), Delaunay, Launay, Albertini, Cartier, and Houdin. The reinforcements are composed of 1 adjudant-chef, 2 adjudants, 2 sergent-majors, 7 sergents, 14 caproaux, and 101 men. Sous-Lieut. Dennis arrives on 12 November from the 19 Escouade du Train. The next day is spent performing chores.
13-16 November: The regiment is transported by train to Gaucourt (Seine-Inferieure). After traveling all day and through the next night, it will disembark at Epernay (Marne) the next day and march off to its billets, with the regimental staff, CHR, and a company of 3 Bat. at Brugny, the rest of 3 Bat. at Vaudancourt, and the 1 and 2 Bats. at Vinay. Capt. Sainte Croix (previously evacuated) returns and takes command of 7 Co.
17-23 November: The 1-3 Bats. displace and billet at Le Baizil and Mareuil-en-Brie (Marne). Sous-Lieut. Erkens is promoted definitively to the rank. On 19 November, the regiment resumes its training, the morning dedicated to specialist instruction and the evening to primary exercises. Accompanying a detachment of reinforcements from the Division Depot is Capt. Gautret (taking command of 1 Co.), Lieuts. Mulotte (taking command of 9 Co.), Samuel and Luzzati, and Sous-Lieut. Spaeulé. The reinforcements are composed of 3 aspirants, 1 sergent-major, 2 sergents-fourriers, 7 sergents, 1 caporal-fourrier, 12 caporaux, and 141 men. On 20 November Sous-Lieut. Aimond arrives from the 153 RI. A detachment of reinforcements arrives from the 81 RI and is composed of 1 adjudant, 1 sergent-fourrier, 6 sergents, 12 caporaux, and 78 men. The same day a detachment arrives from the depot of the 151 at Quimper composed of 2 sergents, 2 caporaux, and 18 men. The next day Lieut. Canredon coming from the 9 Bat/151 RI arrives and takes commend of 6 Co., along with a detachment of 2 adjudants, 6 sergents, 6 caporaux, and 160 men. On 22 November reinforcements arrives from the 62 RI composed of 2 sergents, 5 caporaux, and 33 men.
24-30 November: The 151 conducts a prise d’armes at the Ferme des Limous and is reviewed by General Deville, who says goodbye to the 84 Brigade which is detached from the 42 DI in order to form a part of the 165 DI temporarily. Noted here is a 42 DI report dated 24 November 1916 on the total effective of units in the division. It cites that the 151 had 62 officers and 2,045 men (with 20 officers and 724 men currently on furlough). On 26 November, Lieut. Parmentier comes from the 251 RI. On 28 November a detachment of reinforcements arrives from the Divisional Depot composed of 1 adjudant, 3 sergents, 5 caporaux, and 44 men. Sous-Lieut. Hucliez (previously wounded and evacuated) returns and is assigned to the 2 MG Co. The regiment moves off to new billets at Villers-Agrou, Olizy-Violaines, and Authenay.
1-3 December: The regiment moves to Magneux, Cavet, Villete and Courlandon (Marne). Capt. Pehu arrives from the 348 RI and is assigned to the 5 Co. Lieut. Colonel Moisson and the senior commanders go up to the front lines to conduct a reconnaissance of the regiment’s new sector west of Berry-au-Bac (Marne): Choléra – Miette. Cmdt. Malochet is transferred to the 94 RI. On 3 December, a detachment of reinforcements arrive from the Divisional Depot composed of 4 sergents, 1 caporal-fourrier, 13 caporaux, and 82 men. They are accompanied by Sous-Lieuts. Mollet, Triauraux, and de Menone. Lieut. Legaret coming from the DD is assigned to 7 Co.
4-31 December: On 4 December, Moisson reviews 2 Bat. and decorates Cmdt. de la Ruelle with the Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. At night 2 Bat. and 1 MG Co. relieves a battalion of the 332 RI in [the River] la Miette sub-sector. The next night 1 Bat. relieves a battalion of the 332 RI in the [Ferme de] Choléra sub-sector, while the 3 Bat. moves into the second line to relieve the third battalion of the 332 RI (with one company Gernicourt, one at Bauffignereux and another at Roucy). On 5 December, the 151 (along with the 162 RI) is assigned to the 69 DI, under the command of Colonel de Marathel. The 69 DI would see its original regiments (251, 287, 332 RIs) reassigned, with the exception of the 267 RI, which would remain with the division. The next day is calm with a some 77s and 105s striking here and there. Lieuts. Coudezorgues and Baillat (previously evacuated) return. Beginning 6 December and continuing for several weeks, the men are put to work repairing the trenches, constructing fire-steps, and deepening the trenches. There are light bombardments of the regiment’s first-lines and counter-bombardment of the enemy’s as well. Occasionally both sides artillery pick up to a greater degree, including trench artillery barrages. On 11 December, 3 Bat. relieves 2 Bat. in la Miette sub-sector. On 17 December Lieut. Edmond arrives to the regiment to take command of the special disciplinary platoon. On 19 December, 2 Bat. relieves 1 Bat. in the Choléra sub-sector.
On 22 December, Capt. Antoine is decorated with the Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. On 24 December a detachment of reinforcements arrives from the Divisional Depot composed of 7 caporaux and 93 men. Christmas Day and night remains quiet throughout the sector. On 27 December 1 Bat. relieves 3 Bat. in la Miette sub-sector, with the latter passing into reserve. Lieut. Meunier (previously evacuated) returns and is assigned to 7 Co. On 31 December, the regiment fires some rounds from its Archer canon on the German trenches.
1-31 January: Intermittent bombardments. Work continues on deepening the trenches. Capt. Vernos arrives from the DD and is assigned to 2 Co. On 3 January 3 Bat. relieves 2 Bat. in the Choléra sub-sector, the latter going into reserve. Work continues on the positions, deepening the trenches, constructing machine-gun and assault-rifle platforms, building fire-steps and adding addition barbed-wire to the belts. The regiment suffers its first casualties of 1917 on 4 January: 3 wounded. On 8 January Lieut. Lecointe arrives from the 8 BCP and is assigned to 3 Co.
On 9 January a German patrol of 40 men is spotted along the outside of the wire-entanglements in front of Ouvrage Varmes and is quickly dispersed by rifle and machine-gun fire. On 10 January a German reconnaissance patrol is spotted in front of the Choléra listening post and is dispersed by 75 shells. At night, 2 Bat. is relieved by 1 Bat. in la Miette sub-sector, the latter passing into reserve with two companies at Gernicourt and one at Ouvrage Ouest. The companies of 1 Bat. provide working parties for the first-line. On 11 January arrives from the DD composed of 2 sergents, 4 caporaux, and 66 men. On 12 January Lieuts. Guillot, Canrendon, de la Ferrière, Basteau, de Mondion, Thiebaud, and Suisse are promoted to the rank definitively. On 13 January, 1 man is wounded.
On 15 and 16 January the enemy profits from very dark nights to launch small raids along the line, including at the Lorient Center. Sous-Lieut. Montcalm (previously evacuated) returns and is assigned to the 7 Co. On 17 January 1 Bat. relieves 3 Bat. in the Choléra sub-sector. The next day enemy artillery picks up in activity. 1 killed and 1 wounded. The days continue to be spent working on the lines. On 23 January 3 Bat. relieves 2 Bat. in la Miette sub-sector. On 30 January, the enemy sends over a number of aerial torpedoes, principally on Ouvrage Ivetôt and Hâvre. The next night, a battalion of the 131 RI relieves 1 Bat. in the Choléra sub-sector, the 1 Bat. going back to billet at Ventelay.
1-28 February: Minenwerfer fire picks up on 3 Bat. positions in la Miette sub-sector. The next night, 2 Bat. is relieved in its reserve positions by a battalion of the 131 RI. The 2 Bat. and CHR go back to Ventelay and Ferme de l’Orne to billet. On the morning of 4 February, the regiment moves off to Lhéry where it billets in the barracks of the instruction camp there. The 3 Bat., which had remained in its positions in la Miette sub-sector, is relieved by a battalion of the 331 RI and moves back to billet at Ventelay. In the morning of 6 February, 3 Bat. will march to Lhéry to rejoin the rest of the regiment. Onn 8 February the regiment will conduct a long march to its new billets, with 2 Bat. marching 24 km to Iguy-le-Jard and 1 and 3 Bats. marching 19 km to Festiguy. The next morning 1 Bat. will march to Parguy-la-Duluys, 2 Bat. to Artouges, and 3 Bat. to Verdou. After two days of cleaning and rest, the regiment will resume its instruction on 12 February. The training program fixed is as follows:
0700 hrs – Reveille
0800 to 1000 hrs – Specialist work (1st week)
0800 to 1030 hrs – Specialist work (2nd week)
1030 hrs – soup (1st week)
1045 hrs – soup (2nd week)
1300 hrs – Daily assembly, roll call, conversation with a company officer or adjudant on the subject of current morale, as indicated by the company commander
1330 to 1415 hrs – Barracks music
1400 1630 hrs – Exercise (1st week)
1400 to 1700 – Exercise (2nd week)
1730 hrs – soup
2000 hrs – Roll call
Sunday – complete rest, concerts, games, recreational meetings
This training regimen, as indicated above, will continue for two weeks. On 16 February the division is reviewed at Courbe-en-Brie. The flag of the regiment is decorated with the Croix de Guerre with palm by General Deville and the 42 DI with the following citation:
[The 42 Division]: an elite division which has played the most glorious part in all the most important operations of this campaign – the Marne, the Yser, the Argonne, Champagne, Verdun. Under the energetic direction of General Deville demonstrates once again in September 1916 its offensives spirit and brilliant maneuvering qualities on the Somme, taking strongly organized and well-manned defenses. The 8 and 16 BCPs, the 94, 151, 162 RI have again earned glorious acclaim.On 19 February a detachment of reinforcements arrives from the DD composed of 1 sergent, 1 caporal, 169 men. On 21 February the regiment performs an attack exercise. Sous-Lieutenants Guielemain and Chiarelli are promoted definitively. On 25 February, the day is spent at rest and in recreational meetings. The next day, the regiment is put on alert that it will be moving off, so the day is spent making preparations for departure. The regiment leaves for its new billets, 1 Bat. and CHR and Mareuil-le-Port, 2 Bat. to Port-a-Biusin, 3 Bat. to Buison-Orquiguy. The march is made very difficult by the horrendous conditions of the roads. The next day the regiment makes another difficult march to new billets at Saint Euphraise and Vrigny.
1-18 March: The regiment is put on alert that it will be relieving the 131 , which occupies the Choléra – Berry-au-Bac sector on the night of 2-3 March. The regiment thus makes an approach march to move closer to the front lines. The 1 Bat. and CHR billets at Bouvaucourt, the 2 Bat. at Cormicy, and the 3 Bat. at Bouffignereux. On 2 March, the senior commanders and company commanders reconnoiter the sector. That night, 1 Bat. relieves a battalion of the 131 RI in the Choléra sub-sector while the 2 Bat. relieves another battalion in the Berry-au-Bac sub-sector. The 3 Bat. relieves the third battalion of the 131 in the reserve position at Gernicourt (Ouvrage Ouest), less 11 Co. which relieves a company of the same unit in the first-line. Capt. Verna, commanding 2 Co., transfers to 3 Bat. to act as the capitaine-adjudant-major, while command of 2 Co. goes to Lieut. Teyssier. Lieut. Mulotte takes command of 5 Co. Sous-Lieut. de Menoue (from the DD) will be assigned to the 6 Co.
The next several days, and especially nights, are spent improving the boyaux and trenches. Efforts are focused on the Ouvrages east of the Miette: Lorient, Lunéville, Morlaix, Choléra. Occasional bombardments by enemy artillery (77s and 105s) are targeted on the regiment’s positions, especially the first-lines. A notable increase in the intensity of fire comes on 7 March when the Germans bombard the Berry-au-Bac sub-sector and the reserve positions at Gernicourt with 150s and 210s from 0830 hrs to 1700 hrs. Along with targeting the regiment’s strengthened positions, the stone bridge at Berry-au-Bac is particularly targeted. The next day the bombardment resumes and lasts all day. The fire lessens a little the following day (9 March). That night, the 151 is relieved by the 267 RI, with the 1 Bat. billeting at Guyencourt and Bouvancourt, 2 Bat. at Bouffignereux, and 3 Bat. at Cormicy.
The 10-12 March are spent at rest with the men cleaning their uniforms and equipment. On 13 March, the regiment provides working parties to the Telegraphic Service of 5th Army. The next evening, regiment relieves the 162 RI. The 1 Bat. (less 3 Co.) relieves the reserve battalion of 162 RI at Cormicy and 2 Bat. relieves a battalion of the 162 in the Moscou sub-sector. Owing to a raid launched by the Germans on the right of the 162 RI in the Sapigneul sub-sector, the 3 Bat. (along with 3 Co.) would relieve the third battalion of the 162 the next night instead. Again, there are occasional exchanges of mortar fire as the men work to repair the damage caused to the trenches. On 17 March Battalion Leader M. Martin arrives from the 208 RI and takes command of 2 Bat. Meanwhile Lieut. Luzzati from the DD and Sous-Lieut. Albertini from the active corps are sent to the depot to assist in the training of the Class of 1918. Sous-Lieut. de Montcalm is evacuated from sickness (he will return at the end of the month).
19-31 March: On 19 March the Germans bombard the regimental commander’s PC with poison gas shells. French artillery opens a strong bombardment of Côte 108 and its borders the next day. Meanwhile the men spend the days attempting to repair the flooded trenches and bail out the water. On 24 March, 3 Bat. and the 3 Co. are relieved by a battalion of the 267 RI in the Sapigneul sub-sector, with the 3 Bat. going to billet at Cormicy and 3 Co. to Bouffignereux. The following night, 1 Bat. (Moulin de Cormicy) and 2 Bat. (Moscou sub-sector) are relieved by the other battalions of the 267 RI, the former returning to Bouffignereux and the latter to Guyencourt. From 26-28 March, the regiment will be at rest. On 27 March Lieut. Mulotte (commanding 5 Co.) is evacuated from sickness. The next day Sous-Lieut. Kremer returns after being evacuated from illness. On 29 March the 1 Bat. carries out a combined-arms training exercise liaising with airplanesin the ravine between Bouvancourt and Bourgogne. On the night of 31 March, 3 Bat. relieves a battalion of the 162 RI in the Berry-au-Bac sub-sector. That same day a detachment of reinforcements arrive from the DD composed of 1 adjudant, 1 maréchal des logis, and 75 men.
Losses for the regiment during this period are tabulated as follows:
On 5 March - 2 wounded (Sdts. Beauchard, Barbier).
On 6 March - 1 wounded (Sdt. Reynand).
On 8 March - 3 killed (Sdts. Mesquen, Droal, Belzic) and 2 wounded (Sgt.-fourrier Garbe; Sdt. Archambault.
On 9 March - 4 killed (Sgt. Loupmon; Cpl. Bastien; Sdts. Barnetche, Dumaine) and 8 wounded (Sdts. Gillet, Corolleur, Delvaigne, Gillard, Cruche, Burette, Provost, Hervé).
On 10 March - 1 wounded (Sdt. Ronand).
On 14 March - 4 wounded (Sdts. Poulain, Legendre, Allain, Kerbirion).
On 15 March - 1 wounded (Sdt. Lequen).
On 16 March - 2 wounded (Sdts. Zimmer, Valois).
On 17 March - 3 wounded (Sdts. Lelière, Le Gouze, Ribault).
On 19 March - 1 killed (Sdt. Marquis) and 3 wounded (Coquier, Serpe, Rosemblum).
On 22 March - 2 killed (Sgt. Forgeat; Sdt. Lemarie) and 2 wounded (Sdts. Poubert, Brion).
On 23 March - 2 killed (Sdt. Charnel, Chartier) and 3 wounded (Sdts. Wartemez, Vauqier, Gothereau).
On 24 March - 5 wounded (Cpl. Grasser; Sdts. Donval, Van Deuren, Aimond, Théron).
1-14 April: At night 1 Bat. relieves a battalion of the 162 RI in the Choléra sub-sector, while 2 Bat. relieves a battalion of the 162 at Gernicourt and Ouvrage Ouest (save 6 Co/151 which relieves a company in Lunéville Center). The men are busied with working on the trenches. On 6 April 2 and 3 Bats. are relieved by two battalions of the 155 RI, the 2 and 3 Bats. going back to rest camp at Vaux-Varennes. The next night 1 Bat. is relieved by the third battalion of the 155 RI and goes back to the same rest camp. On 11 April, the companies receive all the ammunition and weaponry that they require for the coming attack. On 14 April at 1900 hrs the regimental staff, CHR, and 1 Bat. leave the rest camp at Vaux - Varennes and move up to the first line attack trench assigned to the regiment.
Transfers and reinforcements during this period are tabulated as follows:
On 3 April a detachment of reinforcements arrive from the DD composed of 1 sergent, 14 caporaux, and 20 men. Lieut. Mulotte returns after being evacuated and retakes command of 5 Co.
On 6 April Lieuts. Bouffard and Riffard, and Sous-Lieut. Damon arrive with the regiment. A detachment of reinforcements of 3 sergentts, 20 caporaux, and 74 men arrive from the DD
On 11 April Lieut. Auriac arrives from the DD and is assigned to 1 Co.
On 13 April Sous-Lieut. Triaureau arrives from the DD and is assigned to 6 Co.
On 14 April Sous-Lieut Delot arrives from the DD and is assigned to 7 Co.
Losses for the regiment during this period are tabulated as follows:
On 2 April – 1 missing.
On 3 April - 1 wounded.
On 4 April - 1 wounded.
On 5 April - 1 wounded.
On 6 April – 2 killed and 1 wounded.
On 7 April – 1 killed, 8 wounded, 2 missing.
On 8 April – 1 killed.
Sdt. Charles "Auguste" Bordinat recorded in his memoirs all the preparations leading up to the start of the offensive, along with spirit of the men in the 151.
After spending a few days at rest, we set out again to occupy Berry-au-Bac, now completely demolished. There, we set ourselves up under the vault of the church transformed into a command post. Everywhere the shelling was raging away in order to hinder our preparations that were now beginning to take shape. Let us not forget that the preparation of an attack at this time was a monster of a job that took at least a few months. The enemy's aircraft provided intelligence on our sensitive points, slowing our progress at the price of immense sacrifices from our part, costing us as many losses as the attack. Having organized the terrain, after the advance is kicked off, so often one does not think on the immensity of this task fulfilled by those units involved and the suffering endured.
On our side, our aviation, perfected and augmented, was beginning to make headway and stand up to that of the enemy, so superior to ours up until now. We hoped that it would prove itself in this coming great offensive. It was praised a bit too much by the people in the rear at that time. In the eyes of the infantrymen, airpower was regarded as a novelty weapon. They didn’t trouble themselves in the least about its practicality. Nevertheless, some of these airmen, as they were called at that time, were bravely doing their duty, and seeing the great numbers of planes fly over our heads, we began to expect they would indeed provide both material and moral support in our difficult days to come, so often abandoned to our sad fate. Our leaders told us they were like the cavaliers of yesteryear.
Our time in the sector completed on the 7th or 8th of April, we will be quartered in barracks situated in a small wood above Vaux-Varennes, where we will be prepared and trained for the coming push, we are told, will bring about a decisive result to this unfortunate war. We were given lectures to demonstrate how the enemy was exhausted, tired of war, possessing worn-out equipment, having no more bread and suffering from a moral-infection (this was a bit true). I rarely saw afterwards the morale of all the men, already tired of this futile struggle, elevated to this degree, all having faith in the final success that was now so close. We waited for this tremendous assault practically singing. It was with joyous hearts that we watched the endless arrival of cannons of all calibers day and night, whose artillerymen boasted of their efficiency, also expecting success to be guaranteed. From our billets filled with the greenery of the spring of 1917, we were already making plans for the return to our families in the near future… It would be on the 16th [of April] and cheered by seeing all possible precautions accounted for, that we were ordered to go to our designated jumping-off location…