How a cow changed the fortunes of a village

Legend says that in 1603, a heifer discovered a mineral water source in Soultzbach les Bains, in the vallée de Munster!

Visitors had been bathing at Soultzbach les Bains for four hundred years before Alsace became part of the new German Empire. In fact, they were doing so before the fortuitous wanderings of the local heifer. Jacques de Hattstatt, seigneur, established a Badehus in the fifteenth century and after the Hattstatt line died out in 1585, the village came into the ownership of the barons Schauenburg Herrlisheim, who set about installing the means of exploiting the mineral water source. There are records of a possibly seventeenth century hall with a basin for the collection of water, at least one room for people seeking a cure, and a dwelling; there are records showing that after the Schauenbergs sold the premises to a M Bobenrieth in 1815, there is another wing.

M Bobenrieth saw the commercial potential for selling health-giving waters and he collected the spring water in pitchers for sale. At the same time, the popularity of the source was attracting large numbers of tourists into the village, where they lodged, until disaster struck: a large fire, which reduced the accommodation available.

By this time, a Swiss industrialist called M de Gonzenbach had bought the premises. He halted the activity at the source and reconsidered. He decided that the source was to become a thermal hotel, with an extra floor added to the building, a new wing built for entertainment of the guests and the garden transformed into an agreeable pleasure park. By 1854, there were up to 200 ‘patients’ taking the waters and enjoying the delights of a smart hotel in beautiful mountainous surroundings with invigorating fresh air and plenty of opportunities for gentle exercise should they be so minded.

Soultzbach source Gonzenbach - spa 1902

Postcard sent 1902

Alongside the hotel business, M de Gonzenbach’s commercial acumen prompted him to develop the external sales of water. It was sold under the name Source Gonzenbach and by 1863, sales reached 49171 bottles and jugs.

Soultzbach source Gonzenbach rear

Postcard view of the rear – casino wing on left

The business was sold on by M de Gonzenbach’s son-in-law but the new owner suffered financial ruin after the Great War and he ceded the source to the water company Carola of Ribeauvillé. (Carola still exists and is a prominent supplier of bottled water in the region.) Over the next few years, Carola mechanised the water collection and built bottling units, but the cramped location restricted development. Perrier-Nestlé bought the source and ceased operations there in 1993. From the meanderings of a village cow to a multinational company in four centuries!

The premises are now in private ownership and the industrial units have been removed. My photo shows two wings and the main building forming a courtyard. According to Inventaire général du patrimoine culturel* the ground floor and first floor correspond with the original building. The right wing was the casino.

Gonzenbach now

We particularly noticed the columns with Doric capitals and the entablature with frieze with gryphons.

Gonzenbach gryphons and frieze

The south wing used to contain the casino and looking at the elegant arched windows, it doesn’t take much imagination to people the room with elegant fashions and animated conversations.

Gonzenbach casino window smaller

I am very grateful to the current owner who allowed us to wander around and take photos after we chanced upon this wonderful building in a quiet part of Soultzbach. I’m sure the disused hotel Au Relais de la Source across the road from the thermal hotel has its own stories, too.

 

Au Relais de la Source

 

 

References:

*http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/inventai/patrimoine/

Des usines au fil de la Fecht: Le patrimoine industriel de la vallée de Munster, editions LieuxDits, 2008

My photos and postcards

 

 

 

Three armies, one battle, one cross: le Croix du Moulin, Jebsheim.

Together in death
United in peace

Ils sont réunis dans la mort

Unissons-nous dans la paix

Sie sind im tode vereint lässt

Uns auch im frieden einig sein

They are together in death

Let us unite in peace

La Croix du Paix

Croix du Moulin

The memorial was built on the site of the old mill at Jebsheim, Alsace. The mill and the village were destroyed during the battle which raged from 02.30h on 25th January to 19.30h on 30th January, 1945, when the Americans pushed the German troops back towards the Rhine. In that time, in inhumane and bitter winter conditions, 1034 men were killed and more 2000 wounded. That is one death every fifteen minutes.

Croix du Moulin close upAs time has passed, there has been a spirit of reconciliation between the former adversaries and the memorial recognises the dead of all three armies: French, American and German. The three facets of the cross represent the three nations and the elegant, peaceful inscription is written in three languages. The armies and units who fought here are listed on bronze plaques, but these are only brought out for official ceremonies, as the first versions were stolen.

The monument was the concept of an American and two French men who fought at Jebsheim and it was inaugurated in June 1988. One aspiration is to bring the message of peace to young people and future generations.

Croix du Moulin bw

Le mur du souvenir

There is also a wall in memory of Alsaciens and Mosellans who were victims of war in violation of their international rights: those interned, those deported, those who were incorporated into the enemy army, those who were prisoners of war, those who were injured or permanently disabled, the fighters in the Resistance in Alsace and in the Free French Army. It recalls people’s long journey of suffering and sacrifices beginning in 1940 and leading to their tragic destiny.

Croix du Moulin victims panel

Battleground to place of peace

This was the battleground in January 1945. In the top picture below, I am standing facing the Vosges and the Rhine is behind me. You can just see a road sign at the right of the picture: this was roughly the position of the front line at the beginning of the battle, and where I am standing in the second picture (I’m by the millrace) is the point of progress made by the end.

Croix du Moulin view to front line    Croix du Moulin battleground

This is a very peaceful location, disturbed only by the occasional passing cyclist or tractor and one can sit on the old stones by the former millrace, thinking of the family who made their living here and the dreadful destruction which was the cost of liberation. It seemed strangely beautiful and appropriate that the mill site, now a place for peace and reflection, is now colonised by these stunning, iridescent damselflies.

Croix du Moulin damselfly

Croix du Moulin bridge    Croix du Moulin bridge close up

 

Defiance, resolution, inspiration: Jeanne d’Arc on memorials in Alsace

Breitenbach Bas Rhin Jeanne 2

In 1431 a young peasant girl from Domrémy in the Vosges was burned alive after an illegal trial for heresy in Rouen. During the period in which Alsace and Lorraine were part of the German Empire, she became a powerful symbol of resistance, of defiance, of eagerness for liberation

TBreitenbach Bas Rhin Jeanne 1he inspirational figure of Jeanne or Jehanne d’Arc is a recurrent theme in monuments and memorials after the Great War.  In the memorial in the rural village of Breitenbach, Bas-Rhin,  [above and left], Jeanne stands alone.

Many Alsacien men were forced to fight for Germany, although anyone under the age of 43 when war was declared in 1914 had not known life as a French citizen and Alsacien men in the German army had grown up as Germans. Nevertheless, the theme of a young man being forced to fight for the oppressor is a powerful one and many patriotic and propaganda images depict the despair of the young soldier and his family.

The woman depicted on the war memorial at Guebwiller [previous blog post] pins a small rosette on a young man’s chest under his jacket and tells him, “Remember you are French.” These rosettes were red, white and blue (the colours of the French flag). The memorial at Rosheim shows a French poilu offering the open hand of friendship to a young man who has opened his jacket to reveal the patriotic rosette over his heart; his enforced pickelhaube has been discarded at his feet and Jeanne embraces the two in a gesture which emphasises harmony and unity restored between France and her lost départements.

Rosheim Jeanne

The inspiration of Jeanne in times of oppression and war is reflected in her use in cemeteries. The village and community of Plaine, north of Saales, suffered dreadfully in the raging combats of August 1914 as each side fought to gain control of the essential cols. Jeanne was erected in this cemetery on 12th August 1923. The base of the statue says, “À eux l’immortalité, à nous le souvenir.”

Plaine cimetière militaire

Plaine Jeanne

Menil-sur-Belvitte is a large 1917 nécropole nationale south of Baccarat and it is the resting place of a thousand men, many casualties from the Bataille de la Mortagne (August 1914) and the ghastly fighting at Col de la Chipote. Opposite the cemetery, peacefully surrounded by pastures with the characteristic Vosgienne cows, is a memorial privately erected in 1927 by l’Abbé Collé, the village curé. He also established a small commemorative museum which was destroyed by German troops in 1944.

Menil Jeanne 1

The essential figures on this memorial are in gold; one is Jeanne (“custos patriae”) at the pinnacle and the others (in what seems like slightly toned down gold) are the brave heroes of the 13th, 14th 15th and 21st Corps d’Armée 1914.

Poilus

It is a memorial of unexpected height and power; the loyal Chasseur figures, bravely ready for any challenger and cared for in death by a despairing figure of Mary, demand attention. Jeanne’s immense elevation, her raised cruciform sword and her striking gold armour communicate as a symbol of defiance and inner strength. Your eye is drawn upwards from the brave soldiers to their alleged inspiration as they fought to regain Alsace and Moselle for France.

Jeanne d'Arc, Ballon d'Alsace
Jeanne d’Arc, Ballon d’Alsace

Note:

Le cimetière militaire Plaine also includes a small plot containing the remains of 40 British casualties from the Great War. It is in the far left hand corner of my photograph.

Much of this text has been adapted from a previous blog post. It is published here in the period of Remembrance.

Bitter grief: allegorical women on war memorials in Alsace. A post for Remembrance

Nancy    Le Souvenir, Nancy

Le Souvenir in plas Maginot, Nancy is a bronze sculpture commemorating the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany in 1871 . It was created by Paul Dubois and erected in 1910 after his death. The two women wear the coiffes of their respective regions and Alsace, on the right, stares with bleak unseeing eyes into the mid-distance. Lorraine is so preoccupied with grief that she rests her head on her companion’s shoulder, while the two embrace.

As a consequence of the time in which Alsace and Lorraine were part of Germany, Great War memorials in Alsace tend to be different from those elsewhere. They were built at a time when Alsace had been returned to France, but during the 1914-1918 war, many local men had been fighting as German soldiers. An image of a German soldier was unlikely to be palatable, so a device often used is a bereaved woman. She represents mothers, wives and daughters and may be carrying children. She is often dressed in Alsacien costume so that she is an allegory for Alsace mourning her lost sons, which takes on another layer of meaning if you choose to think of Alsace lost to France for nearly five decades.

Bennwihr’s memorial is called Fidelité, depicting the loyalty of Alsace (with the large coiffe: bow) and Lorraine (with the soft cap) to France. It was erected in 1925 and remained in place during the Second World War. The scars and marks on the memorial testify to the violence of the battle for the Liberation in December 1944: the village was almost entirely obliterated, as my postcard shows.

Bennwihr Fidelité            Bennwihr monument and church Bennwihr

Bennwihr Ste-Odile  Ste-Odile, part of Bennwihr’s Peace memorial

The grieving woman below is the figure on Illhausern’s memorial to the dead of both wars, though she was part of the original Great War memorial. Civilian deaths are listed on brass plaques on the wall of the church. Occupied by the Germans from 1940 onwards, my postcard shows that the village and original church were almost obliterated in the combats of December 1944.

Illhausern memorial 2     Illhausern

Illhausern memorial 1          Illhausern église sinistrée

Memorials showing bereaved women with their fatherless children include Kintzheim [below]

Kintzheim         Kintzheim scene

and Zellenberg [below].

Zellenberg

Sometimes a women is shown alone, distraught with grief.

Westhalten         Westhalten 2    Westhalten

And sometimes all she has is a corpse.

Thanenkirch A nos morts Thannenkirch

All photos and postcards my own.

“His heart is French!” One of a set of posts for Remembrance

Patriotic Sous l'uniforme allemand Propaganda: ‘Sous l’uniforme allemand son cœur est français!’

A young man in Alsace before the Great War was almost certainly likely to have been born and raised German, because Alsace had been part of Reichsland Elsaß Lothringen since 1871. He would probably speak little French, if any. Many men carried out military service in the German Army and there seems to be evidence from contemporary writers that the population was not generally resentful. By contrast there was suspicion of French soldiers, locally called ròthòsa (“red trousers”) because of their uniforms, when they arrived during the Great War.

Guebwiller memorial 1 Guebwiller

Some 1914-1918 war memorials in Alsace reflect the problem of memorialising local young men who fought and died as Germans. A German soldier would not be a popular choice of symbol, so the notion of wearing a tricolore badge under his German uniform was chosen. The war memorial in Guebwiller [above] shows a woman pinning a badge under a young man’s jacket, saying to him, ‘Remember that you are French.’ She could be his mother, his wife, his sister: wearing her coiffe, she symbolises the idealised patriotic women of Alsace, secretly longing to be French again. My postcard shows this memorial before the Second World War.

Guebwiller memorial 2           Guebwiller Monument aux Morts pre WW2 Guebwiller

The memorial at Rosheim [below] shows Jeanne d’Arc mediating between two soldiers. The man on the right is pointing to the badge of loyalty hidden under his German jacket. His pickelhaube is abandoned on the floor and he is unarmed. The man on the left is a French poilu, helmet garlanded with leaves of peace; he is reaching out a hand to the young man who reluctantly fought in the German army and his weapons pose no threat.

Rosheim Jeanne Rosheim

The two propaganda postcards purport to depict the devastated family of a young Alsacien who has to fight for Germany. One [above] says, ‘Sous l’uniforme allemand son cœur est français!’ and shows a woman pinning the secret tricolore badge on his shirt. The other [below] shows two ailing, elderly people and a young man in the depths of despair: ‘Le pauvre enfant est soldat allemand!’

Patriotic Le pauvre enfant est soldat allemand Propaganda

(My photographs, my postcards)

La Tête des Faux – one hundred years on. Christmas in the Vosges 1914 (2)

Commemorating the Christmas Eve attack on the summit of la Tête des Faux, one hundred years ago, 24th December 1914 – 2014.

Please visit the new gallery of my photos of la Tête des Faux

09 Reclaimed by nature Near the summit (my photo)

The dominant summit of la Tête des Faux was strategically important: its height (1208 m) provides an extensive view over this part of the Vosges and the villages of le Bonhomme, Orbey and Lapoutroie. Initially it was occupied by the Germans, who used the position for surveillance and artillery attacks, particularly on the French based at the Col du Bonhomme.

After the French command post at le Col du Bonhomme was destroyed at the end of November 1914, Chasseurs Alpins [French] attacked and gained a foothold on la Tête des Faux on December 2nd.

On 21st December, the snow began to fall and temperatures dropped to bitterly cold. There was some sporadic shooting, but the German full assault to push back the French began at 22h30 on Christmas Eve, preceded by a heavy mortar attack. The French had to withdraw to await reinforcements, who forced the Germans back into their previous position.

On Christmas Eve, 1914, there was no truce and no football at la Tête des Faux. 137 French and over 500 German soldiers died in the fierce cold and snow on this challenging summit.

Hexenweiher Hexenweiher (my postcard)

 

Please visit the new gallery of my photos of la Tête des Faux

 

Noël 1914 – Christmas in the Vosges, 1914 (part 1)

Gabard 5 le Jus sent 7 May 1918 ( ‘Le jus’ Illustration Ernest Gabard 1879-1957)

The war on the Vosges front did not stop on Christmas Day, neither for truces nor football games. Personal accounts testify to French units in the region of Hartmannswillerkopf (le Vieil Armand) beginning to relax on Christmas Eve, sharing food in the homes of local people, singing carols, even planning to attend a local midnight mass and temporarily forgetting war. [Note, below]

HWK autour de HWK Hartmannswillerkopf

Their happiness was dispersed when alerts arrived ordering them to mobilise within an hour. They hastily packed food and equipment and were guided in pouring rain through the wet, cold forests, the weather turning to snow and ice as they ascended the mountain. There was little shelter and kitchens could only operate at night because the smoke would attract attention from German artillery. Some men were without food for 48 hours. There were few tracks and trails to form efficient communications routes, so it was difficult to bring up equipment. Men were inadequately dressed, some with little more clothing than they had in summer, suffering bitter temperatures in exposed mountain terrain or in pine forests which gave poor protection from the wind, the snow or rain. The holes they dug for protection from the enemy, such as from snipers, soon filled with water, yet they had to be used.

HWK boyau central glass slide best5 R cropped Trench, Hartmannswillerkopf, glass slide

The French objectives included the villages of Uffholtz and Steinbach. The battle was fierce. Among those who survived, some had frostbite, some bronchitis. Because of the difficulties in accessing positions by effective routes, it was difficult to carry stretchers and evacuate the wounded.

These two winter postcards are undated but in sharing them I intend that they reflect the aftermath of the dreadful Christmas of 1914.

HWK Tombeaux des Chasseurs written 1920  French

HWK German graves in the snow German

 

 

 

Please bear in mind that I am not a military historian and I am writing for general readers. There is an excellent resource (in French) on the website of l’association Les Amis du Hartmannswillerkopf, http://www.ahwk.fr.

Note: Source http://www.ahwk.fr/noel-1914-avec-le-15eme-b-c-p/

Postcards and glass slide from my own collection.

L’église de l’Emm, Mémorial de la Première Guerre mondiale: a post for 11th, 11th, 2014.

La Chapelle d’Emm, Metzeral – a memorial to those who died in the Vosges

Please visit A gallery of images 

L’église de l’Emm takes its name from Emma, niece of Charlemagne, who founded a hermitage on this colline near Metzeral in memory of her fiancé, Roland de Roncevaux, in the fifteenth century. Through the next five centuries, the original chapel was variously destroyed, rebuilt, rededicated, refounded and eventually wrecked in the Battle of Metzeral (15th – 21st June, 1915).

00 Metzeral Chapelle Emm

After the war, the ancient chapel stood in ruins. Curate Martin Behe arrived in the Fecht valley in 1921 and was deeply affected by the damaged valley, dreadfully scarred by warfare and the resting places for thousands of French soldiers, some in the cemeteries and some lost possibly forever in the mountainous landscape of the Vosges. He urged the construction of a memorial.

The colline was designated as the site for a church consecrated to the memory of the soldiers who fell in the Vosges, particularly those who died in the battle for Metzeral and who still lie in the Vosges. It was to be a focus for families to remember their husbands, their fathers, their sons, their neighbours, and people were encouraged to contribute. The site of the old chapel was chosen and a new church was built as église-mémorial de l’Emm. It is an expression of mourning and of gratitude by the people of Alsace.

The project was overseen by a committee under the banner Souvenir Alsacien, which included the bishop of Strasbourg and General Pouydraguin. Fundraising took place across France and abroad. The builders used local red sandstone (the same as was used for the cathedral in Strasbourg) and prominent on the façade is the inscription expressing the gratitude of Alsace: “À nos vaillants soldats, l’Alsace reconnaissante”.

26 A nos vaillants 2014

The building was finally dedicated on October 4th, 1931 and the bells were dedicated nine months later in July 1932. I believe the bell tower contains four bells. One is intended to evoke the majestic sound of the bell in the ossuary at Douaument.

Inside, the walls are lined with 1.80m high marble panels, each engraved with the names of the soldiers who died in the battle for Metzeral. Stained glass windows throw their saturated light on to the light marble. It is a profoundly peaceful place which encourages reflection. One window depicts a chaplain ministering to a dying comrade among the debris and flashing lights of the battlefield. It is called, simply, ‘Nos morts’.

16a Emm poilus closeup

Gallery of images

Note 1: The Battle of Metzeral (1915)

Metzeral is 6.5 km west of Munster, in the valley of the river Fecht. Control of the valley was important for both sides and military operations took place there early in 1915, coinciding with the intense fighting at Hartmannswillerkopf. The battle for Metzeral in June 1915 tends to be overshadowed by the bitter struggle for Hartmannswillerkopf and (beginning just one month later) the fierce battle at le Linge, but it was important and deadly.

The combined forces of Major General Pouydraguin (47th Division) and General Serret (66th division) were deployed to remove the enemy from the upper valley of the Fecht. Initially they were unsuccessful and the two generals decided to carry out a major assault.

The populations of the villages or Metzeral and Sondernach were evacuated on June 9th and the attack began on June 15th. The main action took place on 20th and 21st June, with heavy fighting street by street, building by building, hand against hand, bayonet against bayonet. The village was ruined beyond recognition, the tranquil river valley destroyed. By the 24th June, the French had secured Metzeral but the human cost was devastating. The French cemeteries of Chêne Millet and Sondernach, the German cemetery of Breitenbach, are witness to the losses in the valley of the Fecht.

Note 2:

I have photographed all the panels, but I have not transcribed them. All the names can be found here: http://www.amisdelemm.fr/images/sampledata/Documents/plaques_votives.pdf

Please visit the gallery of images

Le Col de la Chipotte, 25th August 1914 – le Trou d’Enfer, the Hell Hole

Le Col de la Chipotte, 25th August 1914 – le Trou d’Enfer, the Hell Hole . Current thinking is that the soldiers on both the French and the German sides fought for the Col de la Chipotte with courage, endurance and determination. Many were inexperienced in mountain and forest combat, and the nature of the terrain undoubtedly contributed to the huge losses and injuries on both sides. One of my postcards of le Col de la Chipotte sent by a poilu from the Front instructs his wife: “Put the card in your album and save it because at la Col de la Chipotte 19000 men, French and German, fell and they are buried in the same graves.” I think his numbers may be wrong, but his sense of awe and horror is palpable.

Le Col de la Chipotte (or Chipote) is in the west of the Vosges mountains on the principal route between the towns of Rambervillers and Raon-l’Étape. From Raon-l’Étape and St-Dié to its south east there are relatively easy ways through the mountains. Therefore, possession of the col was strategically vital for both the Germans and the French. Winning the Col was part of Joffre’s two-pronged strategy for reclaiming French territory lost in 1871: Alsace and Lorraine.

01 Col de la Chipote crossroads written 1916 Before: a simple Vosges col at 453 metres.

03 Col de la Chipote tombe written Feb 1919 After

The territory is dense forest, including steep slopes and ravines. At that stage of the war, few men on either side had any experience in or training for that sort of terrain. It was almost impossible effectively to use artillery and visibility was obscured by trees. There are some small villages to the west of the col, though these were ruined by bombardment early on.

The Germans needed to be able to move their troops efficiently to other theatres of operations and by late August were in a strong position to organise their defensive strategy to progress west towards the Meurthe. On 22nd August Moltke sent the order to continue as far south as Épinal, pushing the French south and breaking their stronghold at Épinal. By the evening of the 24th August, it was considered unlikely that the French would disrupt the manoeuvres and the Germans pressed through to hold a line in the region of the villages of Étival-Moyenmoutier, Baccarat and St-Benoit in the low western foothills of the Vosges. Von Heeringen chose not to push through as far as Rambervillers and stopped at the Col de la Chipotte.

On the 25th August, the French fought back but were repelled. Some French units, separated by forests, dared not venture any further but others counter-attacked, successfully halting or even pushing back the German advance. By the evening, the Germans were ordered to suspend their forward thrust. The next day, however, they secured the forests of Sainte-Barbe. The French attacked again, somewhat overrating successes elsewhere in the region and confidently expecting their opponents to collapse.

What happened during the next day was confusing but it gives a flavour of the days to come. French unit diaries even record their soldiers hidden high in trees firing at the enemy, which may be an exaggeration. Some units failed to arrive where they were supposed to be because of failures in the transmission of orders. Others inexplicably spent the morning constructing trenches even though they had not been ordered to and the unit was not even in a status of alert. Expected reinforcements did not come. In early afternoon, the French began a retreat which quickly turned into a messy rout and by 15h00 the Germans were able to secure the col. There were already heavy casualties on both sides.

At 16h30 French troops were conscious that an attack was imminent, probably within the hour. They were heavily bombarded and hid in the woods. Panic set in and the frightened, exhausted men fled to the nearest village for shelter. Scornfully, the Germans promptly called them ‘fuyards’ [fugitives]. However, the French rallied and were able to drive the Germans back and hold the col, but at a huge cost of French lives.

On 27th, the Germans were determined to regain the Col. They needed to split the French and secure a route through the Vosges from the east to the west. The Col changed hands again and again, with a huge death toll. Despite heavy bombardments and repeated attacks over the next few days, neither side managed to secure the col.

Reports claim that this small piece of land was littered with bodies, French men lying next to Germans. One unit which started on 1st August with 3000 men and 50 officers was reduced to 1050 men and 15 officers within two days of the battle for the col. Capitaine Pasdeloup, 10e BCP, wrote on 3rd September that he was commanding the remains of two companies: 190 fusiliers instead of 500. The commandant was dead, 4 captains [plus other officers] were killed or wounded, but morale was, he said, good. On 30th August, he noted that within eight minutes of an attack on Chipotte his company lost one sergeant major, one sergeant and 41 chasseurs.

Another unit diarist recorded that between 31st August and 3rd September, his unit lost 47 killed, 252 wounded and 305 had disappeared (almost certainly dead), with 5 officers killed and 9 wounded. Out of 71 officers, he said, he had 15 left: 79% had been killed or wounded. His troops had started with 4740 men and after those 4 days there were 1905 remaining, which he said represented a loss of 60%.

05 Col de la Chipote graves with kepi

In another ghastly scene, one small French unit was trapped in an isolated location surrounded by putrefying bodies for two and a half days.

In the evening of 5th September, German high command ordered its troops to cease all attacks and to prepare to move to another theatre of operations. A week later, on the 12th September, French troops reoccupied the Col de la Chipotte and fighting there ended.

Current thinking is that the soldiers on both the French and the German sides fought for the Col de la Chipotte with courage, endurance and determination. Many were inexperienced in mountain and forest combat, and the nature of the terrain undoubtedly contributed to the huge losses and injuries on both sides. One of my postcards of le Col de la Chipotte sent by a poilu from the Front instructs his wife: “Put the card in your album and save it because at la Col de la Chipotte 19000 men, French and German, fell and they are buried in the same graves.” I think his numbers may be wrong, but his sense of awe and horror is palpable.

04 Col de la Chipote mixed graves soldiers French and Germans lie dead together.

The French dead have their memorials, the Germans have none here. Cimetière Militaire de la Chipotte contains 1899 dead, plus 893 in two ossuaries. Inside the cemetery there are monuments including one to 349 unknown soldiers and a monument erected by local people (I think) to the soldiers killed on the battlefield. By the modern car parking space, there is a monument to the Chasseurs à pied and there is a roadside monument to the Colonial regiments.

02 Col de la Chipote with monument posted 1920

07 Col de la Chipotte inauguration Monument des Chasseurs

08 Col de la Chipotte Monument des Chasseurs woman bike

Col  de la Chipotte cemetery bw  September 2012

Col  de la Chipotte segment (N) September 2012

Note:

Please make allowances for the fact that I am not a military historian but an enthusiast for the Vosges and their battlefields. I intend that my text should be accessible to non-specialists. I am happy to correct mistakes.

There is a full account with maps and photographs in 14-18 magazine [Le magazine de la Grande Guerre], number 59, November-January 2013. Back issues are available from the publisher. http://www.hommell-magazines.com/magpress/site/hommell/14-18-MAGAZINE/fr/kiosk/title.html

Col de la Chipotte

All postcards and photographs my own except for the colour photo of the cemetery, which is by Nigel Holbrook.

Tour de France, Stage 10: July 14th 2014. A view through old postcards

The second day of the Tour de France in the beautiful Vosges includes some of the towns and villages which suffered terrible destruction in the Great War. It climbs to altitudes where domination was vital for observation and defence in the challenging conditions of mountain warfare.

Mulhouse

Two postcards, one showing the famous Hotel de Ville and the other the Monument aux Morts (posted 1930).

01 Mulhouse hotel de ville

02 Mulhouse monument aux morts posted 1930

Ensisheim

Behind l’hôtel de la Régence is an intriguing war memorial commemorating Ensisheim 1675 – 1975. It depicts Turenne’s victory at Turckheim in 1675, saving Alsace from the Imperial army, and the American troops who liberated Alsace and the village in 1945. There is a plaque recording the names of villagers who were deported to concentration camps.

03 Ensisheim S of Guebwiller
Ensisheim WW2

Westhalten

Like many in Alsace, Westhalten’s war memorial depicts the mourning of woman and children.

Westhalten

Soultzmatt

La Cimetière roumain, Soultzmatt, is the resting place of 678 Romanian soldiers who died in captivity during the Great War in Alsace and Lorraine.

04 Soultzmatt Roumanian cemetery

Roumanian cemetery 7

Roumanian cemetery 6

Munster

The card below, posted in 1915, shows the town of Munster before the war, looking towards Hohrod and Hohroderg. In the background are the defended observation positions of Hörnleskopf, where vestiges of German structures can still be seen, with Barrenkopf, Kleinkopf and le Linge in the further distance.

Lancaster NN766 crashed into this mountainside on January 7th, 1945. A cross on the hillside commemorates the crew.

05 Munster facing towards Hohrod posted 1915

Hörnleskopf:

5b Hörnleskopf observatoire Français au sommet

5a Hörnleskopf

A few images showing the destruction of Munster during the Great War:
06 Album - Munster la place du Couvent

07 Album - Munster rue du Dome

08 Munster rue Hohrod ruines

The civic cemetery in Munster contains the dead of two World Wars and this Bavarian lion, erected by Bavarian troops in 1916. For a fuller account, please visit my other blog:

http://mightygwyn.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/cimetiere-militaire-munster-a-place-of-stories/

09   Munster cimetière posted 1925

The Monument aux Morts in Munster before the Second World War:

10 Munster les Promenades et le Monument aux Morts

Luttenbach-près-Munster

11 Picture map Munster area WITH BOX

The camping area in Luttenbach is the site of the château of Coubertin, founder of International Olympic Committee. The château was destroyed in the Great War.

Luttenbach looks across to Reichackerkopf (c  780m), the site of extremely fierce fighting between February and April 1915. It was immensely important, partly because it controlled access to Munster and the two prongs of the valley. 4500 French soldiers and 4000 Germans were killed or lost on this small section.

There are numerous vestiges of the Great War still visible on Reichackerkopf. Many of these settlements in the two valleys were destroyed during the 14-18 war.

12 Reichackerkopf vers la Vallée de Munster

Petit Ballon (1163 m)

Kahlenwasen is now a peaceful, popular ferme auberge high on the Petit Ballon. During the Great War the farm premises were used by German troops and destroyed. Signs of trench lines are still visible. (The feature picture of this blog was taken from Kahlenwasen.) The second postcard is a military card.

13 Kahlenwasen dated 1904

14 Kahlenwasen in snow, military postcard

Sondernach

Sondernach after the Great War; and the French cemetery at Sondernach, Cimetière du Bois de Maettle:

15 Sondernach after war

16 Cimetière Sondernach

After the War, the villages close to Sondernach were left in ruins.

16a Metzeral before the War Metzeral, before the 14-18 War

16c Metzeral 17 janvier 1916 Metzeral

16b  Metzeral ruines in snow posted 1919 Metzeral

16d Metzeral pont de la Fecht postwar Metzeral

16f Mittlach multivue 1915 Mittlach (Chasseurs Alpins’ ambulance base in cellar of Mairie-école)

16e Breitenbach cimetière militaire allemand. German military cemetery, Breitenbach.

A new church was built on the site of the wrecked Chapelle d’Emm as a memorial to those who died for France in the Vosges, particularly in the bitter battle for Metzeral, June 1915. The principal memorial window is beautiful.

16g Metzeral Chapelle Emm

A nos vaillants

IMG_4479 (Detail)

Le Breitfirst

This small, naïve memorial is not far from the road through le Breitfirst (1280m). Its story is self-explanatory from the inscription.

IMG_5479

Col d’Oderen (884 m)

The Col d’Oderen was a frontier point between 1871 and 1914. The original bornes frontières can still be seen. It was also the scene of important action in December 1944. For more information and photos, please see this blog post:
https://thebluelinefrontier.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/two-quiet-cols-oderen-and-bramont/

17 Col d'Oderen posted 1906

Servance

Finally, to give a flavour of the landscape around Servance, here is a postcard showing movement of equipment on the Ballon de Servance in winter.

18 Servance sommet hiver

And these two blog posts wouldn’t be complete without …

La cigogne blanche –  symbole de l’Alsace!

Stork

All postcards and photographs are my own.