From Verdun to Craonne and Vauclerc
(May 23, 1916 to June 4, 1917)
From Verdun to Craonne and Vauclerc
(May 23, 1916 to June 4, 1917)
On the 23rd of May 1916, we were put on alert. The regiment was driven to Dugny by automobile. In sweltering heat, the regiment was marched towards Verdun and arrived that evening at Faubourg Pavé. The night was black. On a road pockmarked by large caliber shells and littered with the debris of vehicles, dead bodies of men, and of horses, which emerged a pestilent odor, the regiment headed to relieve the troops of General Magin before Fort Douamont. Those there had attacked the works and were greatly tested. Relief was painful and tiring, hard and dangerous under the frequent artillery barrages.
After traversing Fleury-devant-Douamont, the regiment was placed in line around 01:00 in the morning in shell holes, because there was no trace of the communication trenches or the trenches themselves. Many units didn’t find those who they were to relieve. A captain, sole survivor of a machine gun company, identified their positions.
Before Fort Douamont
(The evening of May 23rd and the 24th and 25th of May 1916)
With the dawn commenced a frightful bombardment, which continued without respite right up to sunset. At 10:00, the enemy rushed towards the regimental front; despite heavy losses, we stopped them with our fire. They augmented the intensity of their artillery fire; large caliber shells fell without stop on our positions, burying units and finishing off the wounded who were massed at the entrances to the bunkers.
The Germans increased their attacks against our front without result, but progressed to our right in the Bois de la Caillette; the fire of our artillery limited their advance fortunately. The bombardment continued with great violence. Lieutenant Colonel Dufour, who was observing the movements of the enemy, was wounded; Commandant Masson took command of the regiment.
The 1st Battalion and the C.M. 3 were relieved in the night on the 24th of May by a battalion of the 415th Infantry Regiment. The bombardment was less strong, but on the 25th, at dawn, it restarted with formidable intensity. Everything disappeared in the dust and the smoke. Our artillery dispersed the reassembling enemy around the ferme de Thiaucourt. The incessant pounding of our position continued; our losses were very heavy: 8 officers killed, 17 wounded; 159 soldiers killed, 820 wounded, and 68 missing.
Never the less, the enemy did not advance; the ground confided in the 18e was completely held. The night of the 25th, the rest of the regiment was relieved by the 415e and 218e R.I. The regiment regrouped in Verdun, was quartered the 31st in Landrecourt, and the next day [June 1st] was transported to the Saint-Dizier region by truck where it took several days of well-earned rest.
On the morning of the 8th of June 1916, the 18e R.I., was transported by rail and was disembarked at Givry-en-Argonne. After spending time in several different cantonments in the region, the regiment relieved the 25e R.I. in the Noue-de-Beaumont zone the 21st and 22nd of June. Lieutenant colonel Dufour returned and retook command of the regiment. The sector was relatively calm, but its organization needed to be perfected. Solid shelters were built; communications trenches were created behind the first line by night, because of the close proximity of the enemy.
Sub Lieutenant Fatoux, Aspirant Roustan, Corporal Maubourget, Soldier Darcial and a good many others bravely accomplished this dangerous work, despite the fire of the enemy. Capitain Jedynowiez was killed when he went to look at the work of his company. The Germans, worried by our activity, frequently caused minenwerfer fire which wreaked havoc on our improvement efforts.
We lost during the period between the 10th of June to the 15th of September 1916: 1 officer killed, 1 wounded; four NCO’s wounded; 11 corporals and soldier killed, and 32 wounded.
Period of Instruction at Camp de Mailly [and the Somme]
Between the 15th and 21st of September, the regiment was relieved by the 49e R.I.; the 22nd, it was a Sainte-Menehould; the 23rd, at Chêne (Aube). Between the 24th of September and the 6th of November, instruction was actively pushed. The regiment learned how to utilize new equipment: machine guns, V.B. grenade launchers [tromblons], 37mm cannon, etc. Frequent exercises in coordination with artillery ensured close collaboration between the two arms. Lieutenant Colonel Decherf in October commanded a regiment which was newly ready to enter into the struggle.
The 25th of November, the 18e R.I. was directed in stages to the Somme where battle had raged for several months. On the night of the 24th to the 25th of December, the regiment relieved two battalions of Chasseurs in the Bovent sector, close to Harbonnières. The regiment was given a difficult task because the terrain was unstable; trenches and communication trenches collapsed, forcing us to redo them constantly. Additionally, shelters were rare and we were obliged to live in thick mud which covered everything.
In the first days of 1917, the 18e R.I. came to occupy the Berny-en-Santerre sector. The cold was very severe. The enemy was very active and bombarded our positions frequently. British troops relieved the regiment the 12th of February. Losses between the 25th of December 1916 to the 12th of February 1917: 1 officer wounded; three soldiers killed, 15 soldiers wounded.
In Aisne. – The Offensive of April 17, 1917
After a stay in the region of Auchy-la-Montagne, where instruction was resumed, the regiment was directed in stages into Aisne. The regiment was designated to participate in a large offensive on the 17th of April, as the vanguard of the division in the strategic exploitation what was to follow the breaking of the enemy’s front. The regiment found itself on the 16th close to Oulches and Vassogne. The regiment was placed on the 17th behind the assault tropes, several hours after the attack was launched. The advance of these troops was rapidly stopped; contact was maintained in the hope that forward movement would be retaken. Alas, night came without what we had tried to achieve. Some patrols rummaged through the German shelters that the assault wave have passed without clearing and where there had been gunfire. Lieutenant Lassort captured a German officer and 17 enemy soldiers. That day had cost us 10 killed and 13 wounded. The 18e R.I. was brought back to the rear around Fisme. During the night of the 21st and 22nd of April, the regiment relieved the 233e R.I. in the Craonne sector.