Campaign History of the 151e Régiment d'Infanterie - XXIII
~ 1917 ~
Second Battle of Verdun
In what would be the first of Pétain’s limited offensives following the rebuilding period after the turbulent spring and summer of 1917, the French army would be going back on the attack at Verdun. On the left bank of the Meuse, things had remained a quiet one for the first six months of 1917. But in June 1917, the Germans opened assaults on the southern slopes of Côte 304 and Mort Homme, as well an attack on the fortified towns of Avocourt and Cumières. These prove partially successful and the fighting continues into July. A back and forth of bloody attacks and counter-attacks ensued, lasting until the end of the month. This was the aim of the coming French offensive, to rectify the recent gains made by German forces, re-establishing a tactical advantage that, at the same time, would hold heavy symbolic value. A massive coordinated assault would be launched on both banks of the Meuse along a twenty-five kilometer front. For the execution of the operation, select formations were chosen which had already distinguished themselves in various sectors at Verdun: XIII, XV, XVI, and XXXII Army Corps. Once more, the 151 would be going back to Verdun, its fourth rotation in the Furnace.
29 June - 1 July: Instruction resumes, principally on the work of specialists.
2-3 July: Maneuver of cadres for the entire division in anticipation of a division maneuver, which will take place the next day. On 3 July, division maneuvers are conducted, taking over two fortified positions. Depart from billets at 1530 hrs. After the maneuver, the regiment eats breakfast at the Ferme Valmoi (adjoining zone to Camp de Mailly) and returns to billets at 1600 hrs.
4 July: the 151 is alerted that it will be setting off the next day to parts unknown. Preparations are made for the departure.
5 July: the regiment boards trucks and is transported to the Bar-le-Duc region. It is now clear to the men that they are heading toward Verdun. The 1st and 2nd Bats. (along with the staff and the CHR) arrive at Laimont, the 3rd Bat. and Neuville-sur-Orne.
6 July: Lieut. Colonel Moisson is promoted to Colonel.
7-11 July: instruction resumes, particularly the work of specialists.
12 July: specialist instruction continues. At the same time, a delegate party selected from the ranks and commanded by Capitaine Bourgoin, Lieutenant Coureaux, Sous-Lieut. Baillat (color-bearer), and 36 NCOs and men, embark at Revigny headed for Paris in order to represent the regiment at the 14 July parade.
13 July: Transfers: Médecin-aide Major (2 cl.) Aubry is assigned to the 151, coming from the 6th region. Médecin-aide Major Colson passes to the 6th region.
14 July: Rest in the billets in the morning. In the evening, regimental competition between all specialists in celebration of the national holiday.
15 July: the regiment is told to take preparation to move out and at 2000 hrs, 1st and 3rd Bats. (with CHR) embark in trucks. 2nd Bat. remain in place.
16 July: 1st and 3rd Bats disembark at Verdun (Faubourg-Pavé) around 0400 hrs. The units rest all day at its old barracks, Caserne Miribel. At 1900 hrs, the battalions depart the barracks and go to relieve the 8 BCP in the [Bois des] Caurières sector 2.5 km north of Fort Douaumont, specifically the [Ferme de] Chambrettes and Hermitage quarters. This is carried out with incident. The 2nd Bat. board trucks at Laimont to follow the other battalions up into line.
17 July: quiet day for the two battalion already in line. The 2nd Bat. arrives at Verdun in the morning and likewise rests at Miribel until the evening. At 1900 hrs it sets off up to the line where it relieves a battalion from the 94 RI.
18 July: After a definitive relief, the Caurières zone (sub-sector Marguerite) is occupied in the following way: 2nd Bat. in Deux Bois quarter having two companies in the first line (5 Co. on the right, 7 Co. on the left), 6 Co. in reserve. The 1st Bat. in Chambrettes quarter having two companies in the first line (1 Co. on the right, 2 Co. on the left, 3 Co. in reserve. 3rd Bat. in Hermitage quarter is in reserve. The day passes quietly, although interrupted by a "Minens" (mortars) duel. At night the Germans conduct a raid on the 1 Co. but are repulsed by grenades. At 1945 hrs, the enemy renews its attempt without success.
Losses: 3 wounded, 1 missing.
19-29 July: The Sector is quiet, cut by intermittent but intense salvos of howitzer artillery fire. All units are busy with maintaining the sector and repairing the critical sections of trenches. The next day, the morning and afternoon are quiet. In the evening, the 2nd Bat. sector (on the right) is hit by numerous minens. The Hermitage quarter is bombarded intensely. During the night, salvos of 77s and 105s come down along the entire sector in unpredictable intervals. On 21 July, the sector quiet. During the course of the day, the sector is bombarded from one end to the other.
On 22 July, at 0525 hrs the Germans unleash a bombardment of extreme violence along the entire sector, but principally on the Deux Bois and especially on the front of the regiment to the right (129 RI). After a bombardment of a quarter of an hour, the Germans carry out a raid on the first line of this regiment but make no headway. The rest of the day and night remained quiet. The next day, there's an exchange of rifle-grenades on the first lines. All units remain in place spending all day and night working on the trenches and boyaux, especially in the Chambrettes quarter, which will contain the departure parallels. On 24 July, the day remains quiet day but there's much activity by the artillery of both sides during the night. At night, 3rd Bat. relieves the 1st Bat. without incident in the Chambrettes quarter. The 11 Co. is installed on the left in liaison with the 267 RI, 10 Co. to the right, 9 Co. in support. The 1st Bat. goes into reserve in the Hermitage quarter.
On 25-26 July, repair work on the boyaux is pushed forward, principally the Boyaux Tirailleurs, Mayeure, and Paderborn (Chambrettes quarter). On 27 July, the day starts off quietly then the artillery of both sides becomes highly active, especially the heavy artillery. The next day remains quiet but at 1600 hrs an intense bombardment on the Deux Bois quarter. Transfers: Médecin-aide Major Vincens rejoins the Colonial troops. M. Judet de la Combe, Médecin Major 1st Class arrives from RPS. On July 29, the units remain in the same positions and continue working on the lines.
Transfers: Lieut. Leroux arrives from the general-staff from the V Army assigned as intelligence information. Sous-Lieut. Philippot is returns from convalescence and is assigned to the 9 Co. Sous-Lieut. Delannay arrives from the DD and is assigned to 7 Co.
19 July - 7 wounded.
20 July - 1 wounded.
21 July - 1 killed, 4 wounded.
22 July - 3 killed, 7 wounded, including Lieut. Maillard (mortally wounded).
25 July - 2 wounded.
27 July - 1 killed, 7 wounded.
30 July: in the morning, both sides aviation active. During the night, both sides artillery fairly active on hitting the lines to the rear. At night 1 Bat/162 RI relieves the 2 Bat/151 RI in the Deux Bois quarter, which goes to billet at Haudainville. The 3 Bat/162 RI relieves the 1 Bat/151 RI in the Hermitage, which goes to billet at Camp Driant (west of Belrupt). The relief is carried out without incident.
31 July: the day is quiet. Some rifle-grenades bombard the first line trenches of the 3rd Bat. At night, 3rd Bat. is relieved by 2 Bat/162 RI and does to billet at Camp de la Bouvoir (east of Belrupt). The relief is carried out without incident.
Transfers: Lieut. Pautet arrives from the DD and is assigned to 1 Co. Sous-Lieut. Collinet arrives from the DD and is assigned to the 10 Co.
1-6 August: the battalions rest and bathe, cleaning arms and equipment. Then from 2-6 August, the men are put to work performing various work and chores around the billets.
Transfers: Capitaine Gelly is detached from the general-staff from Seulis.
7-17 August: various detachments are sent into line to transport bombs and to work in the sector Caurières.
6 August - 1 wounded.
9 August - 3 killed, 3 wounded.
10 August - 1 wounded.
11 August - 1 wounded.
15 August - 1 wounded.
17 August - 1 wounded.
18 August: In view of the regiment's participation in operations which must take place non-stop on both banks of the Meuse, 1 and 2 Bats. leave their billets at nightfall and move up to occupy assigned emplacements. 1 Bat. shelters in the Ravin de la Caillette and 2 Bat. in the shelters MD of Fleury. The 3 Bat. remain at Camp de la Bouvoir (Belrupt) with Colonel Moisson and the general-staff, and the CHR at Haudainville.
19 August: At night, the CHR and 3 Bat. move up to the front, sheltering in the Ravin du Helly-Est. Colonel Moisson sets up his PC at the Ravin du Helly. The 151 is the head regiment of the 69 DI, which is in support behind the 42 DI. The next day, 42 DI must attack enemy positions along the front of Ouvrage des Fosses (north of the Ferme des Chambrettes) up to Saillant 2942 to the east. The division is in liaison to the west with the 125 DI, which must attack enemy positions in front of Beaumont.
20 August: The attack begins at 0440 hrs. The 151 remains in support. At 0600 hrs, 42 DI reaches all of its objectives but the Germans make great use of their new gas shells, which inflict deep burns on the flesh. The 332 RI suffer particularly badly from the gas. At 0600 hrs, General Delville, the 42 DI and the attack commander, alerts the 1 and 3 Bats. of the 151. The 1st Bat. is told that it will counter-attack in Hassoule quarter, hinging on the attack in case the enemy reacts and attempts from this side a right flank attack on the 42 DI. The 3rd Bat. will move in support of a battalion of the 332 RI which has suffered heavy losses. Ultimately though, Delville does not need to call on these two battalions, which are stood down at 0900 hrs. At nightfall, General Delville orders 3 Bat/151 RI to relieve the 6 Bat/332 RI in its emplacements.
21 August: Despite a very heavy bombardment by shells of very large caliber and the barrages of gunfire, the relief is carried out successfully. The CM3 [3rd MG Co.] is not able to relieve the CM4/332 RI before daylight comes. After the relief is completed by 3 Bat/151 RI, the battalion is positioned as follows: 9 Co. to the left in liaison with 94 RI, 11 Co. to the right in liaison with 6 Bat/332 RI, 10 Co. in support in the Tranchée Ridolphi. The line occupied is a line of shell-holes, very heavily bombarded. The 2 Bat., which was at the shelters of MD Fleury, go to occupy the emplacements left open by 3 Bat/332 RI, knowing that 5 and 7 Cos. at Fort Douaumont, 6 Co. at the Ravin du Helly, the CM2 positioned north of Côte 347 and opening an indirect fire on the enemy's rear. No change for 1 Bat/151 RI. At 1945 hrs, the Germans launch a large counter-attack on the front of the 3 Bat. but does not reach the regiment's lines. After violent fighting, the integrity of the front lines is maintained.
22 August: During the day, enemy infantry and artillery is very active. The units of the 3 Bat. remains in position [in the Bois de Chaume], which work under fire to excavate a continuous trench line. At night, 1 Bat. in reserve at the Caillette shelters and the Ravin du Bazil, is ordered to move in support of the sub-sector of Bezonaux, Chamy quarter. The 1 Bat. is relieves the 1 Bat/7 RI, despite the very heavy poison gas shelling. Same situation for the 2 Bat.
23 August: Situation unchanged for 3 Bat, it's units working relentlessly to improve the organization of the first line and to dig a support line. The Germans heavily bombard all of the regiment's positions. At night the 1 Bat., which was in reserve, relieves in the first line the 2 Bat/129 RI in the Hassoule quarter. Situation unchanged for 2 Bat. except for CM2, which moves to the Tranchée Dalzau to open an indirect fire on the rear of the enemy.
24 August: The regiment continues to suffer under intense German bombardment.
25 August: The German bombardment intensifies to an even more intense level and continues all day. At 1930 hrs, the Germans counter-attack along the front of the 3 Bat. and are able to penetrate into the first line. Yet a vigorous counter-attack by the battalion immediately throws the Germans back again. Along the front of the 1 Bat. in the Hassoule quarter, the Germans carry out a raid on the barricade but are repulsed with grenades without being able to reach the French lines.
26 August: At 0450 hrs, 42 DI launches an attack on the German positions with the assistance of 3 Bat/151 RI along its front (Tranchée du Chaume and Ouvrage du Lama). Though exhausted from the tremendous efforts already expended, the men throw themselves into the attack with great energy. 3 Bat. quickly takes all of its objectives and even surpasses some. In so doing, they take 66 prisoners, including an officer. The Germans counter-attack immediately, trying to retake the foot of the Ouvrage du Lama, launching several assaults to take back the lost positions, in particular Tranchée du Chaume. Each time, the Germans are beaten back and are unable to make any gains here. But 3 Bat. has suffered heavy losses during the course of the fighting.
On the front of the 1 Bat. in the Hassoule quarter, the enemy hammers the battalion's first line positions with heavy artillery. At 2345 hrs, the Germans launch a raid on the petit poste (advanced post) of the barricade but are repulsed, leaving many dead on the ground. At night, 2 Bat. is ordered to move to the Ravin de Neuville in support of the 8 BCP, 16 BCP, and 94 RI. Despite the curtain of artillery fire, which includes gas shells, the movement is carried out successfully.
27 August: 3 Bat. remains in place working actively to organize their conquered positions under continued heavy bombardment. 1st Bat. is also heavily shelled in the Hassoule quarter. At night, 2 Bat. leaves its supporting positions and goes to rest at the shelters of the Blancharderie firing range.
28 August: During the day there is no enemy infantry action but a heavy bombardment all along the line. At night, 3 Bat. is relieved by elements of the 162 RI with the battalion going back to the rest at the shelters of Caillette and Ravin du Bazil. The 2 Bat. moves up into the sector in support with 6 and 7 Cos. at Fort Douaumont and 5 Co. in the shelters close to PC Nice (south of Cote 347). The 2 MG Co., which was in position in the Tranchée Gabarre to carry out an indirect fire, went back in support in the shelters of Helly. No change for 1 Bat, in the Hassoule quarter. Losses for the regiment on 28 August include 3 killed and 17 wounded.
29-31 August: At night the Germans mount a strong raid on the front of 1 Bat. in the Hassoule quarter but in the face of a grenade barrage, are quickly forced to fall back to their lines. Losses for the regiment on 28 August include 2 killed and 15 wounded. On 30 August, the 3 Bat. goes back to rest at Faubourg Pavé. Losses for the regiment on this day include 4 killed and 4 wounded. The following day, the 3 Bat. marches to Senoncourt to be reconstituted. Losses for the regiment on 31 August include 1 killed and 9 wounded.
1-2 September: At night, 1 Bat. is relieved in the Hassoule quarter by a battlaion of the 142 RI with the latter going to rest at Haudainville. The 2 Bat. goes back to join the 3 Bat. at Senoncourt to rest. Losses for the regiment on 1 September include 1 killed and 4 wounded. The next day there is no change but there was 1 killed and 2 missing.
3-7 September: Transfers: Lieut. Ganot coming from the DD is assigned to 11 Co. and Sous-Lieut. Hergott coming from the DD is assigned to 10 Co. Losses for the regiment on 3 September include 1 killed and 2 missing. On 5 September the units are reorganized in view of an impending attack to be carried out by the regiment. Losses for the regiment include 2 wounded. The next day the regiment receives reinforcements. After these are incorporated, the 2 Bat. is transported back to Faubourg Pavé. That night, the 2 Bat. marches up the attack zone assigned to it -- the trench south of Ouvrage du Lama -- where it relieves elements of the 267 RI. During the afternoon of 7 September, the 1 and 3 Bats. are transported to Faubourg Pavé and at night, make the same march up to their assigned sector. The 1 Bat. relieves elements of the 267 RI in the first-line to the west of and in liaison with 2 Bat/151. The 3 Bat. is in support in the Tranchées du Chaume, Salonée, du Dauphiné, and Ridolphi. Losses for the regiment on 7 September include 5 killed and 7 wounded.
8 September: L’Heure-H for the attack on the German trenches is set for 0510 hrs with the 2 Bat. in the first line on the right, the 1 Bat. on the left, the 3 Bat. in the second line. On the left of 1 Bat. is a battalion of 150 RI with a battalion of the 267 RI behind it. The disposition of the 1 Bat. is as follows: 1 Co. on the right in liaison with 7 Co., 2 Co. on the left in liaison with the 150 RI, 3 Co. behind 2 Co. in the second parallel and flanked by a platoon of 1 MG Co. The disposition of 2 Bat. is as follows: 7 Co. on the left in liaison with the 1 Co., 6 Co. on the right in liaison with a company of 169 RI, two platoons of 5 Co. in the second line and flanked by a platoon of 2 MG Co, the other two platoons of 5 Co. marching behind the right of 6 Co. along the limit of the zone between the 151 and 169 RIs. It will be in liaison with a platoon of the 169 RI. Lieut. Pégon (5 Co.) commands this detachment. The 3 Bat. occupies third parallel called Tranchée Bordeaux in the order (from left to right) of 10, 9, 11 Cos., with an element of this last company also occupying Ouvrage Strauss, along with 3 MG Co.
Objective: The objective of the operation is to seize Tranchée de Mésopotamie and Tranchée Lohengrin from point 2252 up to point 3050, together with the 169 and 267 RIs in liaison to the right and left, respectively (whose mission was to firmly hold point 2252).
Execution of the Attack: At 0510 hrs, the 1 and 2 Bats. depart the first line. At this time, it was still not light out. Added to this was a heavy fog and thick smoke produced by the bombardment by both French and German artillery, which only made things more obscured. Units had to navigate by compass (angle of march 16 degrees). The 1 and 2 Cos. of 1 Bat. were charged with taken Tranchée de Mésopotamie between the Boyau du Thibet, point 2851, and 2552. The 1 Co. was also responsible for mopping of the shelters west of point 2849 and the 2 Co. the Boyau Hadimé from 2549 up to 2552 (included).
The 1 Co. is met with a volley of grenades 100 meters northwest of 2646 in Boyau Hadimé. It skirted around this grenadiers post and continues its progression but this is made extremely difficult by the ground churned up badly by the bombardment. Many men lose their direction and get separated from their commanders in the darkness, fog and smoke. The 2 Co. is stopped in the Boyau Hadimé 80 about meters south of 2552 by a strong center of resistance established at this point. Lieut. Lecointe is wounded and passes command to Sous-Lieut. Lecerf, who then rallies the 2 Co. and deploys it along Boyau Hadimé facing 2552. A part of the 1 Co. lost in the fog obliques too far to the west brings it to west of Boyau Hadimé towards 2549. The difficulties of the advance and the heavy fog leaves the 1 and 2 Co. unable to keep up with the rolling barrage.
The 3 Co. alone manages to maintain its trajectory. Capitaine Cormier rallies lost elements of the 2 Bat. and those of the 150 RI, directs them to Tranchée de Mésopotamie. At H 30’, a platoon of 1 Co. under Adjudant Letellier reports he is in Tranchée de Mésopotamie. The 2 Co. is stopped and the rest of 1 Co. is in the 150 RI’s zone of action. At H 1 hrs 30’ the situation of the battalion is as follows: to the east and west of 2851, a platoon of 1 Co. with a platoon of 1 MG Co. and some men of 2 Co. have erected a barricade 100 meters east of 2853. Along the Boyau Hadimé about 80 meters south of Tranchée de Mésopotamie, two platoons of 2 Co. are at 2549, while two platoons of 1 Co. have rallied and are in support of 2 Co. Along the Azames road between 2549 and 2849 is 3 Co.
Meanwhile, from the moment it had departed its parallels, 2 Bat. came under the fire of German artillery. Sous-Lieut. Nuttens (2 MG Co.) is wounded, as is Lieut. Le Teollec (37mm canon) who had been order to deploy to guns in order to take the Azames road and Boyau Thibet by enfilade. Adjudant Leoy of 6 Co. is killed. The companies in the first line skirt around and outflank Ouvrage de Lama, taking the German defenders entirely by surprise. The enemy nonetheless puts up a fight and opens fire in the back of the advancing waves. Trench cleaning platoons from 5 Co., assisted by a platoon of the 3 Bat. (under Aspirant Ponchon of 11 Co.) burn the enemy shelters and take the first prisoners. Capt.-Adj.-Major Bazaille seizes a German officer and a NCO an orders them to have their men immediately cease fire. Cmdt. Martin then interrogates this officer and learns that there are three companies of the 1 Bat/130 Regiment occupying Ouvrage de Lama. He then has the German officer lead him to the entrances of the saps and has the man order all the occupants out to surrender and line up behind him, this being carried out immediately. The 6 Co. progressing in its zone of action and assisted by a platoon of trench cleaners under Sergent Gudin (5 Co.) mopped up the shelters at 3148 and taken numerous prisoners as well (belonging to 2 Bat/130 Regiment).
At H 30’, Tranchée Lohengrin is taken by 6 Co., which places its right on the point fixed to be in liaison with the 169 RI. The 7 Co. being a little off its direction has drifted to the west. Tranchée du Deltra [sp?] being so completely obliterated by the French bombardment is no longer discernible. Lead by the energy of its commander, Sous-Lieut. Delot, a platoon of 7 Co. follows a portion of Mollet’s trench cleaners platoon (5 Co.) beyond its objective and disappears in the fog and smoke in the direction of Carrière 2952. Cmdt. Martin alerted by Capt. Bazaille