The British Column. Source: JP le Padellec

The first fighting on the Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Way) took place here around an old sugar refinery, fortified by German troops

The village of Cerny-en-Loannois in the Aisne département sits on a terrace overlooking the Ailette, at the crossroads of the Laon-Fismes road and the Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Way). The village is traditionally considered to be the birthplace of Saint Rémi (437-533), the Bishop of Reims who baptised Clovis. Napoleon also stayed here before the Battle of Craonne, on 7th March 1814. The first fighting on the Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Way) took place here around an old sugar refinery, fortified by German troops.

The British Column This monument honours the heroes of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, who fell during the first battle of the Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Way): the assault on the Cerny-en-Laonnois sugar refinery in 1914. It stands alongside the D 967 and bears the inscription: "In memory of the officers, warrant and non commissioned officers and men of the Battalion Loyal North Lancashire regiment who laid down their lives on active service 1914-1919." At the start of the war, General Joffre launched an offensive which, from 5th September 1914, enabled French and British troops to reach the Aisne on 13th September, between Venizel et Berry-au-Bac. But the Franco-British advance was halted on 14th September, when the British had to dig their first trenches on the south side of the Chemin des Dames, between Vendresse and the sugar refinery at Cerny-en-Loannois. Between 15th and 20th September, both armies vainly sought to break through the opposing front line between Cerny-en-Loannois and Craonne. Fresh attempts were made by the Germans between the 26th and 29th, then on the French side on 30th September and from 12th - 14th October. By the start of 1915, the Kaiser's troops had taken the Chemin des Dames sector, thanks in particular to the attack on the La Creute farm (the Dragon's Cave), and begun to fortify this line that was now behind the front.
Nivelle launched the major offensive to break through the German lines on 16th April 1917. Unsuccessful and costly in terms of men, the troops were becoming mutinous. On 15th May, Nivelle was replaced by Pétain at the head of the French Armed Forces. Beginning in the summer, he launched a series of limited attacks in order to regain control of strategic positions up to the Ailette. In May 1918, the German General Staff launched Operation Blücher to retake positions between the Aisne and the Ailette. Overrun by the counter-offensive during the second Battle of the Marne, the Germans withdrew in October. The Chapel This building, inaugurated on 22nd April 1951, stands as an ecumenical memorial for the Chemin des Dames. It was raised by a committee led by former officers, dignitaries from the Catholic Church, the head of the Protestant Federation in France and the Chief Rabbi of France. Regimental and individual plaques adorn the walls. Each year in April or May, an impressive religious and military ceremony is held to commemorate the fighting in 1917.
A lighthouse for the dead The light that burns at night from this tower opposite the chapel is a reminder of the sacrifice of a generation who went to the trenches in defence of their values. French Cemetery Located opposite the Chemin des Dames monument, alongside the D18, this 13,515 square metre cemetery contains the remains of 5,150 men including 2,386 in a collective grave. The cemetery also contains the remains of 54 Russian soldiers, killed in fighting on the Vauclerc, Vendresse and Troyon plateaux and those buried on land belonging to the communes of Beaulne, Paissy, Braye-en-Laonnois and Moulins. The cemetery was created in 1919 but it was not finished until1925. It was completely restored in 1972.
German Cemetery The German cemetery at Cerny-en-Laonnois is located alongside the D18, on the right at the entrance to the village when approaching from Soissons. The site contains the remains of 5,125 German soldiers who fell in the Chemin des Dames sector. The cemetery was constructed in 1924/1925, according to clauses in the Treaty of Versailles concerning graves. Here lie the soldiers who died in the autumn of 1914, the spring of 1915, the fighting of April and May 1917 and May, September and October 1918. The regiments originated from Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony, Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein and western Prussia. A 1926convention, applied from 1928, meant the site could have permanent grave markers. This was added to under the Franco-German accord on graves of 19th July 1966. The cemetery was restored in 1974, when it was enlarged to hold new graves, a new entrance was created and all the grave markers were replaced. The site now contains 7,526 sets of remains. Of the 3,533 individual graves, including 12 of the Jewish faith, 46 remain unknown and in the collective grave containing 3,993 soldiers, 3,080 could not be identified. Information Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge Bundesgeschäftsstelle, Abteilung Gräbernachweis, Werner-Hilpert-Straße 2, D-34112 Kassel.Tel.: 0561-7009-0
A stele to the 38th African Infantry Division Erected opposite the Chemin des Dames Memorial, this honours the men of the 38th D.I. from the Chemin des Dames and bears the following inscription: "The 38th Infantry Division, combining the RICM, 4th Zouaves, 4th Mixed Zouave Infantry, 8th Tunisian Infantry, 32nd RAC, and 19/2 - 19-52 Engineers, fought in September 1914 at - Chemin des Dames - Craonne - Heurtebise, in April 1917 at - Cerny - les Bovettes - Heurtebise, in October 1917 at - Chavignon - Carrières Bohéry - and in the recapture of Malmaison Fort on 23rd October."



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    Practical information




    Accès :

    A 17 km au sud-est de Laon
    Carrefour CD 18 (Chemin des Dames) et CD 967 (Laon/Fisme)

    Superficie : 13 515 m²
    Nombre de corps : Tombes individuelles : 2 818
    Ossuaires : 2 386
    Nombre de morts : 5204
    1914-18 : 5 150 Français
    54 Russes

    Eléments remarquables

    Chapelle aux soldatsRencontre De Gaulle/ Adenauer en 1962

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    Historial de la Grande Guerre
    Château de Péronne
    80201 Péronne
    Tél. : 03 22 83 14 18 –

    Comité Départemental du Tourisme de l'Aisne
    26, avenue Charles de Gaulle
    02007 Laon Cedex
    Tél. 03 23 27 76 76 –

    Commemorative sites