Battle of Collarmont
Starting point : Cimetière d’Anderlues (rue des Combattants – 6150 Anderlues) 4,6 kms
The forgotten battles of the Sambre
On 4 August 1914, the German staff launches more than 700,000 men on the assault of Belgium. The 2nd German army, commended by General Karl von Bülow, reached Maubeuge passing through Belgium. The aim was to invade France and to topple Paris. The 5th French army was commended by General Charles Lanrezac. The meeting of these two armies occurred from 21 to 24 August at various locations on either side of the Sambre.
Battle of 22 August 1914 – Collarmont
On 6 August, the Sordet cavalry corps entered Belgium coming from Sedan. A long ride toward Liège, back toward Wellin, up to Fosses-la-Ville, Hottomont, Gembloux, led the French cavalry to the Charleroi-Brussels canal in Luttre on 21 August. Threatened with encirclement, the cavalry corps fell back to the south, and arrived at Anderlues – Carnières in the evening. The 24th Regiment arrived at the locations during the night, in order to protect the retreat. At 8 am on the 22, the battles took place at Bois des Vallées, around the farm of Viernoy and the wood of Chèvremont-Warimez. These harsh confrontations resulted in between 2,500 and 3,000 dead, injured or disappeared. After the fighting, as a first step the German nurses took charge of the injured from the two fields. The Red Cross was only authorised to go to the sites 48 hours afterwards.
Organization of the French military cemeteries
There are five French military cemeteries in the region covered by the battles of the Sambre: Belle-Motte at Aiseau-Presles, Auvelais at Tamines, Heuleu at Lobbes, Collarmont-Carnières, and Tarcienne. A French law of December 1915 regulated the creation of ‘national necropolises’ (burial grounds) for the bodies of those who died fighting for France. The tombs are set out in rows, with red roses adding the only touches of bright colour. Four types of emblem mark the graves: a Latin cross, a Muslim tombstone, a Jewish tombstone, and a tombstone for other faiths and free-thinkers.
A military cemetery was created on the territory of Carnières, on the edge of Anderlues, following a Red Cross general assembly on 8 November 1917. The mayor of Carnières and two French delegates selected the site and the municipality of Carnières paid for the land and work. The Red Cross bore the expense of the exhumations and coffins. A request concerning the cemetery’s site was submitted to the German Civil Commissioner of Thuin. The principle of a cemetery at its present location was approved on 15 March 1918, and the Governor-General of Belgium handed over the cemetery’s management to the municipality of Carnières on 23 August 1918. After the transfers of German, British, and French graves, the tombs of 247 French soldiers currently remain in the French national necropolis of Collarmont.
The machine gun was one of the most decisive weapons during the First World War. At the start of 1915, military techniques and tactics were adapted to the weapons. The modernisation of weaponry and fighting techniques led to trench warfare. At the same time, the population was called on to contribute to the war effort, in particular women who replaced the roles of the men who had left to fight.
On Saturday 22 August 1914, at 3 in the morning, the 24th French infantry regiment set up camp near to Bois de Vallées. Moreover, farmers were requisitioned by the French officers to dig out the trenches. Strategically positioned at the tip of the slag heap no. 4 of Anderlues, and the mine pit no. 6 of Piéton, the French soldiers attacked the enemy with machine guns. The Germans circumvented he French positions through Bois de Vallées, through the wood of Chèvremont, through Mont-Sainte-Aldegonde and through the district of Lalues. The men engaged in hand to hand combat with bayonets.
The field after the battle –
The president of the local section of the Red Criss, Arthur Hecq, described the appearance of the battle field as follows: “Here, on a sunken path at the edge of the towns of Anderlues and Carnières, there lies a heap of inanimate bodies, a German shell felled the unfortunate ones in a single blast. Further along, scattered all over the place are French and Germans, bleeding, stomachs open, faces all shredded by the bayonet strikes. In the corner of an orchard, the sight is terrible: several officers lying with soldiers, clinging to the bushes, skulls open. They’ve been finished off. However, you can still hear the moans and the groans in the countryside; it’s the injured who’ve been forgotten, unnoticed.”
Faced with the number of dead and injured, the German logistics were overwhelmed. Farmers’ carts were even requisitioned to take the dead bodies to the station in Piéton. At the same time that the staff of the Red Cross provided care, the civilian population was also to undergo an ordeal. The active or reserve regiments, often assisted by the pioneer battalion companies, were ordered to destroy the homes using incendiary grenades. Around 70 homes were burned in the district of Lalue. The residents had no choice but to flee, leaving everything behind. Four civilians were killed and several citizens were deported to Germany.
Download the map (.pdf): Bataille de Collarmont
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