The drama of "Le Linge"

Originally, it was the " GAZON of LEINGE ", and this, up to XVIIth century, name coming from a Celtic appellation. It was, like much other hills of the Vosges, a place of refuge and peace. But, year 1915 gave a terrible celebrity to it.

Thanks to the historic receding, we understand better why LE LINGE, this "small mountain" (BELMONT) became the tragic and glorious " Tomb of the Hunters ".

Le Linge and L'Hartmannswillerkopf were both of them battlefields resulting of a tactical settled conception so-called " overflow movement by the high ", cheer to the theorists of the High Command of the years 1914.

Such movement by the high is only valid if it is done exceptionally with a high-speed effect of surprise. It is inoperative, if it becomes a slow operation, long and exacting, foreseeable by the organized enemy and entrenched then on the strong positions.

The thin results acquired to Le Linge were without comparison with the number of dead people: 10000 dead persons between July and October 1915, 17 battalions of hunters: up until 80 % of dead people.

We have forgotten the Napoleon principle: " avoid the battlefield that the enemy has recognized and strengthened ".


In June 1915, the French troops will reach the Metzeral suburbs in the valley. The immediate moving by the base so much asked by the general d'ARMAU DE POUYDRAGUIN won't be kept by the High Command.

1 month later, it will be THE DRAMA OF LE LINGE.

From August 7th to August 22nd, inroads in Alsace: MULHOUSE, ALTKIRCH, TURCKHEIM, gates of COLMAR.

The Alsace army of the general PAU, which will receive the order to retire in good order on the ridge of the Vosges, abandoning the piece of ground conquered, except the South of Alsace.

During that time, the confrontation of the 2 adversaries has set all the northern part of the France ablaze.

German invasion by Charleroi (draft SCHLIEFFEN) - pushing on the Marne and Paris, the German troops have a good chance to surround all the East part of France – At that time, the right hand Alsace French wing is imprisoned in a trap.

The general JOFFRE thwarts this method, but sacrificing the Alsace. The total strength now available is affected to the 1st Army toward the North and the Flandres to warp the breach of the French left wing.

Then in Autumn 1914, the Command Team tries to take the initiative in the Vosges and in Alsace.

Trial without any result in South and at HARTMANN.

Since January 1915, the general BLAZER commanding the 47th division receives the order to try a limited action on Le Linge, to gain control of the altitudes with a view to go down to Munster.

On February 19th, the German troops took again the initiative in going further in the high valleys of the Vosges. Operations without any order that annoy the general JOFFRE.

The general DUBAIL visiting the first lines

On March 26th, the General DE ARMAU DE POUYDRAGUIN takes the command of the 47th D.I.

The idea of the occupation of the high place of Le Linge persists.

Everybody agrees to think that the accumulated delays by our offensive will translate by the meeting of an organic forehead that he/it must burst to move forward.

The rigorous winter persists: snow, fog.

The General DE MAUD'HUY, in command of the VIIth army, while the combats continue all along the Vosges, estimates that he needs an additional division to the offensive of Le Linge: that will be the 66th D.I.

Before the offensive of Le Linge, on June 15th 1915, the 47th and 66th D.I. begin an offensive the goal of which is Metzeral. During one week, the French troops progress of 5 kilometres. The General E DE POUYDRAGUIN suggests to go continue the operations through the valley of Munster.

Headquarters of the General POUYDRAGUIN, at Lac Noir

But the High Headquarters prescribed to stop the offensive through the valley: it prefers to overflow by the hights.

All is therefore stopped in the valley.

Since on April 8th 1915, the headquarters of the 47ème D.I. has been informed of the considerable strengthens of the German organizations to the linen ( blockhaus, trenches, different works ).

Procrastinations in the French camp: the plan of offensive will undergo many modifications so much to the scale of the offensive that to the people to be affected.

On June 15th 1915, a patrol of the 70th B.C.A. arrives to operate an inroad until the comb of the linen, in full adverse device.

On June 20th 1915, been on the alert, the German troops bombard the French positions, strengthen their own trenches and the defences.

The General DE POUYDRAGUIN is always opposed to this offensive to Le Linge.

His division, the 47th, did a secondary action in the valley, while the stroke of Le Linge will be then confided to a new and young division, the 129th D.I. of the General NOLLET, consisted of young soldiers 20 years old.

Scheduled in the beginning on the July 8th, then to the 12 or the 18 , the offensive is finally fixed to July 20th 1915.

From this date, the events are tacking place very quickly, and cannot be told in details.

On July 20th 1915: stroke of the 129th D.I.: Linge-Schratmännele and Barrenkopf.

On July 21st 1915: handed in order in the French camp.

On July 22nd 1915: new attack, without any success: artillery not ready.

On July 26th 1915: (haze, rain, mud) new action limited to Le Linge, methodical fire of the artillery, the comb is conquered with a very high number of dead soldiers. Three attacks of German troops are pushed back during the night and until noon on July 27th.

On July 27th 1915: in the beginning of the afternoon, French attack on the Schratzmännele and the Barrenkopf: half result, then failure.

On July 29th 1915: new French attack of the Schratzmännele from the pass of Le Linge – The top of Le Linge is always held – All the efforts on the Schratmännele will be stopped.

On July 31st 1915: Important general German bombing.

From August 1st to August 30th 1915: several attempts are done towards the top of the Schratmännele (careers), but on August 3rd at 10,30 o'clock, the German troops attack.

On August 4th 1915: Very important and violent German bombing (40000 shells on a front of 3 km long).

On August 4th and August 5th: attacks and counterattacks of in both sides. The top of Le Linge changes many times of hand.

On August 6th 1915: French relief.

On August 7th 1915: German counterattack: mine and fusing shell: failures 2 times.

The General JOFFRE decides to attack in this area refusing a new supply. Meanwhile, a last effort will be tempted to a decisive success!

On August 17th and August 29th 1915: 2 new attacks - the tops are reached , but no held, the attacks are stopped. The opponents get organized face-to-face.

Then that will be the high German counterattack.

The 129th D.I. of the General NOLLET has been reliefed by the 47th D.I. of the General DE POUYDRAGUIN. He inspects the 1st lines : it is a distorted battle front, zigzaging, unprotected below a remarkably organized enemy.

On August 31st 1915: German bombing with gas shells at 4 o'clock A.M. At 5 o'clock P.M. German assaults. The French counterattacks retake a part of the lost ground. The fights continue the 1st and the 2nd September.

On September 9th 1915: new German attack, with gas and flame-throwers; the French counterattacks fail.

And up to October 12th 1915: operations of dividing up.

On October 12th 1915: new tall burst of the enemy: gas and flame-throwers.

On October 13th 1915: at 3 o'clock A.M., a new counterattack of 2 French battalions fails: it will be the last French reaction.

On October 16th 1915: last German attack, which will be pushed back.

The front stays and extinguishes to the pass of Le Linge. Each camp organizes its defence: some artillery duel with variable intensity.

The hell of the war will pursue in the Vosges at HARTMANNSWILLERKOPF level (VIEIL ARMAND).

Plate of the battalions and units that have combated at Le Linge

( click on the plates to make them larger )

"Other hours will be born more beautiful and better. The victory will shine on the last combat. God, do that the people who will know these hours recall those who will never come back."

The poet Sylvain ROYE dies in front of Douaumont in year 1916.

The concern of le Linge for a infantryman is this mass of mud that he sees on an abandoned stretcher above of a narrow passage, mass of mud that marks a respiration when he treads sucked in bodies in the same narrow passage.

The concern of Le Linge is this comrade that falls to his sides, the chest crossed by a bullet and saying in a breath " I am bloody awful ", that he must abandon because the progress continues and that, it is miraculous 50 years later writes to him: " I am still of this world, I have pasted three days and three nights on the piece of ground with dead people". And 50 years later, he has the great pleasure to can tighten him in his arms.

The concern of Le Linge is the captain JOLY that falls down shouting " Vive La France "

The concern of Le Linge is also this hunter that a bullet makes explode the gun, wounds him to the scalp and to whom, when he is blinded by the blood, his sergeant, the sergeant BERANGER tells : " go and dress you ". He returns back, finds the sergeant also wounded to the head by a bullet... It is hard to live. He remains to the command of his 1/2 section, with a bullet in the thigh. This sergeant is later killed as the commander of the company on May 20th 1918 at the Kemmel mount, not far from his ancient hunter.

The concern of Le Linge is this adolescent that I not 20 years old, that all night groans "mum" and in the morning he is a definitely inert body to be added to the others.

The concern of Le Linge is to crawl on the corpses that obstruct the only feasible passage.

The concern of Le Linge is finally this hole that the German who dominates by his position, harass you. In this hole which smells the corpse, the powder dust and the pee and where finally the hunter can have a chance not of be killed, but wounded and out of combat.

Yes indeed, be careful, don't speak thoughtlessly of the BATAILLE of LE LINGE: it is 10000 hunters died for France... Maybe they are too many.

It is not their fault.!