During the reign of Napoleon I, on the Cambrai-Chauny canal, hundreds of prisoners of war took 8 years to dig a 6km tunnel. This was a huge project which enabled them to avoid having to build several locks. There is no ventilation in the tunnel, so a winch boat, called the ‘Toueur’, pulls barges through because they cannot use their engines.
During the First World War the Germans turned this underground canal into a veritable barracks, with dressing stations dug out along the banks. The men slept in barges. In late September 1918 recapturing the tunnel was one of the highlights of the Battle for the Hindenburg line. The attack was launched on 29th September 1918. Americans recaptured the tunnel and Australians recaptured Riqueval bridge, the only one still standing across the canal. It had great strategic value as tanks were able to cross the canal quickly and continue their offensive towards Montbrehain.
In the surrounding area, the village of Bellicourt was the scene of very fierce fighting, to which several monuments pay tribute: a memorial in honour of the 2nd Corps of the American Army and an obelisk in memory of the 30th Division. On the D31 road near Bellenglise another obelisk was erected in honour of the 4th Australian Division.