Battle of Stonne – Trail of the battle of May-June 1940
B1 bis tank. Source: Licence Creative Commons. Public domain.
In May 1940, the village of Stonne was the scene of fighting between the Wehrmacht and French tanks.
In May 1940, the village of Stonne was the scene of fighting between the Wehrmacht and French tanks. Taken and retaken seven times in four days, the place was completely destroyed.
A memorial, which today also marks the start of a tourist trail in the centre of the village, commemorates the French army’s efforts of resistance against the German invasion.
In 1940, France believed it was protected by the Maginot Line. The Ardennes mountain range was considered impassable. The defence in Meuse was assured by the 2nd Army under Huntziger from the Bar valley to Longuyon, whereas the Sedan region was defended by the 10th army corps under Grandsard.
In the month of May, the Germans attacked the Ardennes in order to breach the mountains at Sedan.
On 11th May, the French cavalry, which had gone ahead of the Germans in Belgium, retreated. Huntziger changed his system, in vain: the Wehrmacht was at the entrance to Sedan on 12th May and began operations to cross the Meuse the very next day.
On 14th May, the Germans forced their way through at Nouzonville cemetery and were in a position to take the defenders of Monthermé from the rear. Huntziger reinforced the defensive system in place on the Stonne-Forêt du Mont Dieu line. However, he had to abandon the area of land between Chiers and Meuse, which ended up widening the distance between the 1st and the 10th armies.
On 15th May, the Germans took the offensive on Stonne with aircraft and panzers. Between the 15th and 18th May, the village changed hands 19 times and the losses – 33 French tanks and 24 German panzers – are a testament to the fierceness of the battle to hold this strategic position. In order to turn the position around, the Wehrmacht started an offensive in the direction of Tannay, on 23rd May, took down the 1st Hussards Regiment there and seized the village on 24th May. Nearby, the 3rd Colonial Infantry Division (3rd DIC), that held the Forêt du Mont Dieu, was forced to withdraw along a narrow corridor the night of the 24th May and permanently abandon the area. This battle took the lives of 3,000 Germans and 1,000 members of the French Army.
A remembrance memorial was created comprising:
1 monument in pink granite engraved with the names of all the units that fought in the region,
1 B1 bis battle tank, the same as those that won fame here during the first tank battle in the last world war,
1 viewpoint indicator showing the different lines of resistance,
1 wall representing the ruins embedded with two black marble plaques, one showing the progress of the battle, the other a map of the history trail.
At the bottom of the hill in Stonne (known locally as "Sugar Loaf Hill"), a modern AMX 13 tank is a tribute to all armoured armies, from the first to the last: the Leclerc tank.
The remembrance tourist trail passing through the villages bearing witness to the battles of May and June 1940 is signposted and dotted with information panels. Fourteen stages retrace the events that unfolded in these villages, an homage to the 5,000 French soldiers who fell on the field of honour in this area during the Battle of the Ardennes.
Tourist Information Office for the cantons of Carignan, Mouzon and Raucourt Le Paquis de Frappant