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Thread: Nous Pauvre Couillons du Front

  1. #61

    Default Re: Nous Pauvre Couillons du Front

    Well, well, well... it sure has been some while... *Looks at old photos from the war* I remember ...
    Thank you both Alwyn and Caillagh for your comments! This time something less horrid!





    Chapter Eighteen: Montblaineville et Suippes





    The noise of the battlefield dwindled. More and more soldiers returned from the firing line to the support line. The German artillery unleashed a new barrage, covering their retreating men. Louis listened. No signal to counter attack. He waited for a few minutes, leaning on the door frame of the basement. The diggers of the second line had implemented the basements of Nantillois craftly. Smaller trenches, parts of them tunnels, lead directly into the cellars, sometimes using preexisting doors. Even if only rubble was left of the houses above, the basements still could be used that way. Officers had bunked themselves in, ammunition and rations were save from artillery and rows of camp beds allowed sergeants and their most loyal soldiers to sleep in relative security. Louis looked inside the room for the tenth time. A labyrinth of ammunition crates filled the small cellar. He could only see silhouettes since only two weak lamps served as lighting.


    A group of people came crawling, to the door frame. The trench to Louis position lead into a low tunnel, merely allowing crawling, only the last meters permitted standing. It was Thomas, Michel and someone from the 22nd rifle infantry. All of them look tired and frazzled. Louis knew why. They all had found only a few hours of sleep in the last 39 hours. After the failed attack, a German counter attack had followed, which was followed by a French counter, and then yet another German counter and so on. The only result were bigger pouches under the surviving soldiers’ eyes and more dead people. Enemy artillery made any reinforcements attempts a dangerous undertaking, so that no relieve could come through. Neither did orders, since most of the cables had been destroyed. In total, only a few soldiers were left to hold the first, second and third line.


    The men greeted each other with a nod. Then silence. Michel inspected his camera, if earth had dirtied the lens. Faint crumping from above reminded the four where they were, so that they wouldn’t relax too much. The flickering lamps projected their distorted shadows on the earth around them.

    The one from the 22nd, an older man, about forty, entered the cellar. The man had wide shoulders, which left Louis no choice but to move aside. His blonde hair looked like straw when he passed by the two lamps. The man opened one crate and took out some grenades. Michel showed a pocket watch to Louis. Twenty minutes before 11 a.m.

    “We’re leaving when it’s 11”, said the artist fast and in a staccato like the machine guns which were still going on, sending lead towards the German line. “Get some grenades and ready to leave.. To Montblainville. We’ll regroup there and move somewhere else. Dunno where.”

    Louis exhaled audibly through his nose. “No counter attack? Did the Lieutenant-Colonel grow a brain? What a-”

    “Nassé’s dead”, interrupted Thomas. “Artillery blew him to bits. The boches shelled Cierges. His HQ got blown up. Lieutenant-Colonel Sally Ferdinand-René de Sompoui took his place. Michel, fetch me some grenades, I have to talk to Nircasse.”

    Thomas turned around, and crawled back.

    The 3rd Company of the 3rd infantry battalion from Landes moved into the trenches of Nantillois, more precisely at the sector “Fermette ‘obus heureux’” [Farmhouse “happy shell”], just as the seventh Company of the 4th battalion from Haute-Normandie was about to leave. 246 eager men met 73 tired men, many of which had bandage around one arm or leg. The 73 soldiers stumbled cursing through the narrow and uneven boyau [communication trench]. Some parts had been destroyed by shells and were being eagerly prepared by men with shovels and pickaxes.



    Thomas leaned forward and looked at the box on the table, only to lean back again and sight.

    “Montblainville was merely a dozen houses and a church. The rest was soft hills and empty fields between old trees, of which many had been blasted by shells. A not so small number of shells suggested that the village surely had experienced some shelling. But the trees and hills gave us at least a sense of being out of the German sight. We could, however, hear the front. When we left Montblainville on the 2nd of November I could definitely say that the noise of the front had grown considerably. Keep in mind, the offensive to relieve Verdun was still ongoing, I think it was around the time when the 3rd Champs [Champagne Infantry Battalion] entered Baleycourt, Basically the outskirts of Verdun.

    Anyway, new men came to fill our ranks, before we left Montblaineville. Men fresh from the training, with no experience at all. But instead of teaching them anything about the front, our command thought that parading and outdated drills were more important.
    At least they could march most orderly when we started our journey through the Argonne Forest, only to stumble over every root which resulted in a strafing by the Lieutenant or if one was very misfortunate, a heavy punishment from the Capitaine. What the punishment was dependet on the mood of the Capitaine – I think if one had the luck to stumble in a shady place, one could expect a softer punishment than if one made a mistake in a glade… it was a very sunny day, dazzling but cold.

    I personally had an easy time, I even chatted quite witlessly with my comrades when no superior was in sight. That’s how we went through the Argonne. Afterwards we took a short lunch break in Binarville, our outside if one wasn’t a brass. We then marched until 9 p.m. and we only had three or four short breaks too! The ones who had been in the trench only three weeks before managed to arrive at the destination which was Suippes for our Company but the new ones dropped left and right, to the point where we flung them in the wagons in which we transported our machine guns. At least the poor men we could see in the darkness. Some men arrived in the morning of the next day. I didn’t envy them, and I still don’t -the nights started to get very cold…

    Well, the next day was less exhausting but even more so frustrating. We lined up for drill outside of town, before the sun had risen and the last stragglers arrived but no Capitaine or Lieutenant would appear – not even a Sous-Lieutenant. We stood there until 10 a.m. without moving, expecting someone to show up but nothing. Only a few left the line to carry the men who had fallen unconscious to the MO. The corporals eventually decided to go to town and make ourselves somewhat useful. Everyone got different chores, like carrying thing, helping on a farm and so on. Some would inspect weapons and ammunition but I ended up chopping firewood together with some other men for some of the household in the town.

    Oh, did I mention that we were originally billeted in a camp outside of town but some of us, including me, found hospitable citizens of Suippes who would offer a bed and food for the stay. I had some luck with my host, as they were an older couple whose son lived in Paris, and their grandson fought in Belgium. They had a lot of food to offer and they had, incidentally, their own wine cellar. I didn’t want to empty their cellar together with my comrades, and believe me, we could have, no, we went to the various restaurants, which started to stockpile wine shortly after the war had started. The wine was even fairly cheap too, only eight Sou [Slang for 5 Centimes (1 Franc=10 Décimes=100Centimes)] per bottle of decent quality. We would spend every evening in a different restaurant drinking all kinds of wine and arguing about the inferiority or superiority of red or white wine. I defended white wine on many occasion, to the worse of Michel, whose parents were from Charente, thus he had no choice but to favor red wine. “


    Thomas smiled roguish


    “That’s how we spent our time in Suippes: Drinking and working. Sometimes we did the latter one first, sometimes the other one. Sometimes both at the same time. Almost felt like working at the dock in Dieppe. Haha, it was truly one of the nicer and more laid back times of the war. But, alas, everything comes to an end at times, even the nice things. Our stay in Suippes ended abruptly when the a new Capitaine, Monsieur Kaplane, came to town on the 10th. He was, well, how do I put it… A tyrant without equal and one heck of a pain in the ass.”



    Jean laughed out loud, almost dropping his pen and notebook.


    “Yes, he was that and nothing less. It was at noon, after we had lunch and treated ourselves to an hour of siesta. We got a bit lazy, I must admit, but still. So, some of us were resting on benches at the town center, sitting there, legs stretched out and hands in the pockets when a not so big man in uniform stalked up to us and asked us in a sarcastic and falsely nice manner what we were doing. One of us, he was half asleep answered ‘Enjoyin’ the sun. Never know when it’s taken by the hun. That’s no fun.’ I think he had a bit too much wine and was sleepy, I mean, he didn’t even bother to open his eyes, whilst we had jumped up at the first sight of a blue and red képi. Kaplane’s face turned crimson red, and it was just hilarious. As I said, he was very small. He forehead would touch my shoulders at that time, and he had this ridiculously perfect mustache. Not a single hair out of place. He had almost no lips and a small and an awkwardly angular face. It took us great self control to not burst out in laughter. The poor drunk soldier, now finally having opened his eyes rapidly stood up, almost slumping, pressed his chin against his chest and saluted so fast that it left a red mark on his forehead.
    I think the entire town could hear Keplane shouting and screaming at the poor boy. In the end he had to run around the town square while carrying the baggage of two soldiers and whenever Kaplane shouted ‘strafing’ he had to fall to the ground immediately and crawl underneath on of the benches. In the meantime we had to prepare everything, so that we could march at night. Our destination, we did not know.

    In the evening, a telegram reached our HQ. The German grip around Verdun had been loosened. We would participate in a break through. Thus, at night, we started to march toward Verdun. Towards the thundering, towards the fire at the horizon.”

  2. #62
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: Nous Pauvre Couillons du Front

    It's great to see a new chapter for this!

    Your descriptions of Thomas's life are vivid, as always. I notice that even in a less horrid chapter not everything goes well - there's the arrival of Kaplane, and, of course, the prospect of Verdun...






  3. #63
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Nous Pauvre Couillons du Front

    I'm enjoying this! It sounds like the new men will suffer on a battlefield, as the officers thought that 'parade and outdated drills' were more useful than telling them anything about the front. Like Thomas, I enjoyed the contrasting tone of his time in Suippes. As Caillagh said, the arrival of Kaplane and the prospect of Verdun sound ominous.

  4. #64

    Default Re: Nous Pauvre Couillons du Front

    Ah ,a historical battle created in an ahistorical tale .Perfect .
    To anyone concerned. I am leaving twc. Bye and best of luck.
    And Pike, thanks for supporting me always.

    Sadly, I felt that despite making contributions, I did not get recognition of Citizenship. Hence I left. You might call me crybaby, but I was shocked to see that most people whom I had considered to be well wishers, voted against me. Yes, I needed that Citizenship.
    Nowadays, I don't know if it was the site or if I have improved, but I do find it easier to do better on other sites.
    I also help run a very successful wild west server on Discord.

  5. #65

    Default Re: Nous Pauvre Couillons du Front

    So, after a looong time another chapter.
    Thank you, Caillagh, Alwyn and mad orc for your nice comments!




    Chapter Ninteen: Les Penseurs


    Erich Georg Anton von Falkenhayn was, as he often did when annoyed, playing around with the medal in his pocket, fingering the stamped sides of the bronze piece. It wasn’t a spectacular or remarkably interesting medal, rectangular with one point going through a small ring but the 53 year old chief of staff felt assured by it’s weight in is hand and round edges. One side had a profile view of Whilhelm II and the other side a cross pattée. A crowned eagle standing wings spread on the cross gave the medal the significative feeling he liked about it when observing the bronze piece closer.

    But overall, it was a piece of junk. Everyone who anticipates in a Kaisermanöver is rewarded such a medal, no distinction between common soldiers and people who actually matter. He remembered last year’s Kaisermöver. It was grand but subtle. The anglo-saxon press described it as dull, but didn’t give the soldiers the fault. But Falkenhayn was content with this assessment. He had liked the English observer, Mr. Callwell and -
    Someone knocked on the dark door of the wide, sun-drenched room. A small man in a plain military uniform entered, his round face red, making his small black mustache look like fresh charcoal thrown into blood.

    Did he run or is it because of the cold outside?, thought Falkenhayn. He almost cared but then realized that he was cold too and his thought digressed to the winter coat hanging on a hook on a wall and to the empty fireplace next to the table he was sitting at. He liked the outré style of it, with it’s rococo themed carvings and-
    The man coughed.

    Right!, remembered the General.

    “Nun…?”, he asked, raising one eyebrow.

    The man hesitated slightly. Bad news. Falkenhayn had the ability deduce the gravity of a message before someone even uttered the first word.

    “A small corridor towards Verdun has opened. The garrisons inside the fortresses have increased their efforts to harass our flanks. Namely in Fort Douaumont, Fort Maguerre, Fort Vaux-”.

    “Silence.” The General Chief of Staff whispered this word so tenderly that the messenger wasn’t sure if it indeed has been said. The fact that Falkenhayn was look at something in his hand didn’t make it easier.

    “I assume this corridor is not enough to relieve the city. That’s what you were going to say, am I correct? But I say this corridor is going to grow and we can’t do anything against that. Lochow that idiot.”

    Falkenhayn looked at the maps and books on the table. He moved his chair back and assumed a more relaxed pose. “Get me the Crownprince and Von Knobelsdorf.“
    The man left.


    When he saw Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf’s bald head and his tasteless mustache, Falkenhayn resumed to play with the medal. He didn’t question why the crownprince was alone. He didn’t care.


    Knobelsdorf said instantly upon entering: “I am most terribly surpris-”

    “Stop this”, commanded the General Chief of staff, “We – no. I, was well aware that it would end like this. But I think this is actually good.”

    Falkenhayn waited, analyzed the Generals response. Knobelsdorf desperately tried to look unshaken, but the fact that he was sweating heavily despite the cold said more about Knobelsdorf thoughts than the ten-volume encyclopedia on the bookshelf above the fire place said about the biodiversity of China.
    Falkenhayn wrinkled up.

    “I have something planned. Something that will surely secure our victory. No no , not now. This must stay secret for now. At least the details. I am going to tell you this: I have prepared-”, he grabbed one of the books on the table, “-or rather commissioned a great number of new artillery. And ordered the repositioning of 37 divisions all over the Western Front and move 9 divisions from the east to the west. Additional to that new equipment, ammunition, shells and so on. Our focus from now on will be Verdun. Come, have a look at this. No, wait. Before that, answer me this question. Why Verdun?”


    Knobelsdorf relaxed and started to ponder. He said: “The arrondissement Verdun has many important hills and heights that would benefit our artillery. Furthermore… there are many fortresses, which makes it easy to hold. And...”, Knobelsdorf scratched his left cheek, “and taking Verdun would be a devastating blow to the French moral.”

    Falkenhayn didn’t listen, his thoughts were again on the winter coat. And on the Rhinopithecus roxellana, a monkey he read about in the encyclopedia. He wished he had seen it when he was in China.

    Right, Knobelsdorf!

    He gave the general the book and pointed at two number. One number representing the amount of troops and the other the cost of the new equipment.
    Knobelsdorf‘s face went pale and he started to sweat again.


    Picture of the 1907 Kaisermanöver



    -------------------------


    Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain threw the report on the table.
    „Frustrating. Outrageous and frustrating! One has to wonder if Poincaré even has something that could be considered reason.”

    Pétain propped himself with one arm on his massive, mahagony desk, and looked down on the numerous papers and maps which lay scattered on the table. He twirled his mustache while thinking. His lips moved a bit as if he was praying yet his face looked like a bronze sculpture’s, hard and bland. Buried in thoughts he resembled Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’.
    The young man in the corner observed the old general carefully. He knew too well that Pétain could be lively and choleric at times.

    “I assume”, the young man said while rubbing the gold buttons on his blue jacket, “Nivelle will act as he did before?”

    “I”, spat Pétain, “presume he will do just that. He hasn’t shown anything to prove otherwise. There is a certain breed of people who never learn of mistakes, even if they did the same one a hundred times. Nivelle is of this kind. And Poincaré is even more imbecilic to permit this. Starting with the idea of holding Verdun.”

    “Verdun?”, asked the man and picked a thread off his red jacket. “Why Verdun?”

    “Exactly!”, shouted Pétain and said calmly: “Why Verdun? Take at look at the battles of this war after the trenches were dug and tell me if there is some constant.”

    The man frowned and ran his finger through his short, blonde hair.

    “The front hasn’t changed since?”

    “Yes. And why is that?”

    “Because… every attack has failed so far?”

    “Precisely. The defender always has the upper hand. Having the initiative and controllin the pace of a battle is no longer important. Overpowering with mass is. Artillery barrages are. Trenches are. And machine guns! I tell you, if this war goes on, we’ll have to train more people with machine guns. Well, with this in mind ask yourself, why would the Germans attack Verdun? The most defensive position of the entire front?“

    “Maybe the think they can take it?”

    “Obviously, and not too far off. Taking it is possible - maybe. The fortresses are still manned and not taken, the city still resisting. But why would they attack it in the first place? Why not try to attack the British in Belgium again?”

    The man pursed his lips and then shrugged, inquiring an answer.

    Pétain sighted silently. “Because we’d have to retake it. The Germans are good at attacking. Our idea of attacking at all costs cannot take a trench let alone a fotress, but their idea of organized attacks after howitzer barrages can. If they take Verdun, we’d have to retake it. And their chances of taking the city and it’s fortresses are better than our chances to retake them.” The General clapped his hands. “Our troops would get slaughtered. En masse. Nivelle would gladly use up every able man in France to retake Verdun, the birthplace of our wonderful nation. And destroy it in the process. We should just fall back and build an impenetrable defense. Our forts were attacked by surprise. They are not manned, not sufficiently. How long-”

    “What about the Voie Sacreé? If we push the Germans back we can supply our garrisons via the Voie Sacreé!?” The man almost screamed. His head was crimson, his pitch black eyes like charcoal in a sea of blood.

    Pétain smiled sneeringly. “Correct. If we push them back. If we hold our ground. If the supply line survives. If the Voie Sacreé fulfills what it promises.”


    -----------



    “The first days in ‘Verdun’ were… well… less tense than we thought it would be. We marched to Clermont which was crowded with soldiers from all over France. In fact, it was so full, that the sum of military camps around it connected the town to the villages in the vicinity.”, Thomas slowly scratched his wide chin, “I think that I should clarify that I mean we arrived at the edge of this massive city-camp, when I say that we arrived at Clermont. But don’t imagine some kind of disorderly camp, where tents and wooden makeshift HQs had been put up wherever they could. No, I think it looked from above like planned cities. Like the ones they have in the States. Roads and paths crossed each other at right angles and everything had it’s place. The latrines, the ablutions and so on... “

    “Excuse me, Clermont? How did you get to Clermont in this short a time”, asked David.

    Jean rolled his eyes. “I think he means Clermont- the one in the Argonne. Clermont-en-Argonne. West of Verdun. Isn’t it next to the forest?”

    “Ah! Clermont-en-Argonne. Indeed it was. And yes, it was next to the forest. When you want to go west from Verdun you have to pass through Clermont. During our stay we had to widen and repair the road with shovels and gravel. Ditches and walls protected us from the noise. Well, not us, as in ‘me included’. Since my company arrived later than the others, the city-camp was already huge when we arrived, we were close to Vraicourt. North west of Clermont. We didn’t have a problem with the noise of vehicles passing by. Not as much as least. I mean we did hear it but it didn’t bother us. But unfortunate for us, we had to go all the way from Vraicourt to Clermont every single morning and the same way back after long hours of working in the late evening.

    On the other side, we could see all the different regimental flags. You see, the camp of each regiment was separated from the other’s by a small space and marked with it’s respective flag. Each flag was different and we would compare ours to the others.
    It all was spectacular. The gigantic camp and the flags flapping in the chill wind, the sound of humans doing mundane things, horses, laughing... This improved the mood of the men a lot. Yet - the fighting at Verdun and it’s thundering echo cast a shadow on everyone’s face, from the cooks to the nurses to the artillerymen to us front liners. No one knew where they’d be deployed. Little did we know that the actual battle hadn’t even started.”



    Notes
    So Verdun again... What Pétain mean with "Birthplace", is the Treaty of Verdun in 843, which essentially laid the foundation of the borders of France and the HRE.

    Erich von Falkenhayn replaced Helmuth von Moltke as Chief of Staff in September 1914, after the Battle of the Marne, which essentially destroyed Moltke's Schlieffen plan. Falkenhayn proved to be incredibly capable. He resigned after his failed Battle of Verdun in 1916 and Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff followed his position as a duo. (Two very, very interesting people)

    Phillipe Pétain, aka the Lion of Verdun, was a strong opponent of the French idea of "Offensive at all Cost" and supported the idea of digging in and letting the enemy attack. (Both Falkenhayn and Pétain came to the conclusion that the attacker is always at an disadvantage and defending until the right moment for an attack comes is a better strategy). He would later become iinfamous for his actions during WW2

    Kaisermanöver were big manoeuvers whith the presence of the Emperor. They were a big diplomatic event (foreign nation would estimate Germany's military power by them).

  6. #66
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: Nous Pauvre Couillons du Front

    It's good to see a new chapter!

    You make Falkenhayn a very interesting character - always distracted by something, which is a nice touch, and a nice contrast to Pétain's obvious focus.

    I'm not sure I really want to have details of what's going to happen next, though...






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