Caverne du Dragon Museum (Photo: Yves Fohlen)

'Tommies on the Aisne' exhibition in France recalls 1914 battle where trench warfare started

Posted on centenarynews.com on 23 June 2014
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A museum in France is telling the story of British and French military cooperation at the battle which marked the start of trench warfare on the Western Front in September 1914.

Tommies on the Aisne describes how the soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) fought at the River Aisne after the retreat from Mons and the counter-attack against the Germans at the Battle of the Marne.

The exhibition is at the Caverne du Dragon Museum on the Chemin des Dames, a historic road along a ridge of high ground in northern France and the scene of a series of First World War battles.

Together with their French allies in 1914, the BEF crossed the River Aisne under shellfire, established a bridgehead on the northern bank and climbed the steep ridges of the Chemin des Dames. 

The Germans dug in to resist the pursuers, setting the pattern for the hundreds of miles of trenches which would rapidly define the Western Front.

Photos and personal stories of some of the British soldiers who fought at what became known as the First Battle of the Aisne are among the items on show.

Images, documents, artefacts have been used from various sources including British author Paul Kendall's book ‘Aisne 1914: The Dawn of Trench Warfare.’

At the end of the exhibition, there's a room devoted to remembrance, set in a room of the museum which has panoramic views of the Aisne valley. 

Paul Kendall, who's been involved in the planning and preparation of Tommies on the Aisne, says: "Visitors can appreciate the enormity of the task that befell the soldiers of the BEF as they climbed these heights.

"This is a French initiative being funded by the French Government. 

"It is important that people in Britain are aware that the French are paying homage to British troops who fought on the Chemin des Dames.".

Tommies on the Aisne runs until 20th December 2014 at  the Caverne du Dragon Museum at Oulches-la-Vallée-Foulon, France. More information can be found here.

The Caverne du Dragon is an ancient quarry, turned into a fortified underground barracks by the German Army during the First World War. In German, it's called Drachenhöhle

Source: Paul Kendall and the Caverne du Dragon Museum

Images courtesy of Yves Fohlen, Caverne du Dragon Museum

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News