Rendez-vous at Commemorative monuments in the Forêt de Retz

  • The guards'grave, Forêt de Retz

    The guards'grave, Forêt de Retz

    © OT de Villers-Cotterets

  • Van Vollenhoven Memorial

    Van Vollenhoven Memorial

    © OT de Villers-Cotterets

Rendez-vous at Commemorative monuments in the Forêt de Retz RD2 02600 Villers-Cotterets fr

Battlefield, HQ, occupied territory or military cemetery, the Retz forest was a key strategic position. Located close to the front and forming a rampart for the capital during the Battles of the Marne, the forest naturally became a place of resistance against the Germans.

The place known as “La tour Réaumont” in the Retz forest was ideal for observing the Soissonnais area and, in 1914, General MAUNOURY had a wooden hut erected there. The second look-out post was that of General MANGIN. When FOCH gave the order to attack in 1918, it was from this observation post that the General led the offensive. Taken by surprise, the Germans retreated more than 8 kilometres.

Today a stele stands in place of the observation post, bearing the following inscription: “ON THIS SITE STOOD THE OBSERVATION POST FROM THE TOP OF WHICH GENERAL MANGIN DIRECTED THE ATTACK OF 18TH JULY 1918 WHICH RESULTED IN VICTORY”.

A cemetery in the Retz forest reminds us that, on 1st September 1914, the 1st Corps of the British Expeditionary Force was attacked in the forest while retreating to the south. The people of Montgobert, Puiseux and Vivières were conscripted by the Germans to bury the British bodies in a grave. In November Irish Guards returned and opened up the grave where they found 98 bodies of their fellow countrymen.

In 1922 the "Guards Grave" memorial was erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

In the garden of the forestry worker’s house at Les Têtes de Chavigny stands the mausoleum of Captain Joost VAN VOLLENHOVEN. In 1915, posted to the Moroccan Colonial Infantry Regiment, he questioned the policy of recruiting Africans into the army. He resigned and rejoined his unit on the front. Injured by a bullet during the Mangin offensive, he died on 20th July and his body was buried on the edge of the forest of Villers-Cotterêts. His mausoleum was unveiled in 1938 by the Minister for the Colonies.

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