Music & Song
The website for Dr Martin Shaw OBE FRCM (1875 –1958)
"Stout hearts still sleep within the wood, beside the bridge for which they fell."
This poignant song remembers action at the start of World War I at Venizel, which is to the east of Soissons in Northern France, on the banks of the River Aisne.
The action resulted in the start of trench warfare on the French Front.
A map of The Front near Soissons, Northern France. Venizel, with its woods, bridge and orchards is shaded green . Bucy - le-long can be seen to the north-west. Vregny, to the north of Venizel (mentioned in the text below), can be seen top-right. Chivres, ( also mentioned in the text below) is just off the map to the east of Vregny.
Taken from The Story of the Great War, Volumn II (of VIII); History of the European War from Official Sources
The Third Army Corps, after a brief artillery duel, advanced on Soissons to cover the work of the engineers who were building a pontoon bridge for the French troops. The German fire was deadly, yet though more than half their men fell, the engineers put the pontoon bridge across. German howitzer fire, from behind the ridge, however, soon destroyed the bridge.
Meanwhile, with the failure of the pontoon bridge at Soissons, General Pulteney struck to the east along the road to Venizel. The bridge at that point had been blown up, but the British sappers repaired it sufficiently to set the Eleventh Brigade across, and despite the lurid hail of shot and shell, four regiments gathered at Bucy-de-Long by one o'clock on that Sunday, September 13, 1914.
Over the heads of these courageous regiments towered the great hill of Vregny, a veritable Gibraltar of heavy guns with numerous machine guns along the wooded edge. There was no protection, and no shelter against the terrible German Maxim fire, so that the moment came when to attempt further advance meant instant annihilation.
As there was absolutely no shelter, to storm the height at that point was impossible, and to remain where they were was merely to court sudden death, so the Twelfth Brigade worked over the slopes to the ravine at Chivres, where they intrenched.
The six days from September 12 to 18 revealed beyond doubt that the German line along the ridge of the Aisne was formed of lines of strong fortifications, almost impregnable and absolutely beyond the hope of storming. The forces were too evenly balanced for any concerted action to produce a desired effect, the possession of air scouts eliminated any question of a surprise.
In other words, the conclusion was borne in upon the Allies with full force that the Allies' plan had failed at Aisne. The crossing of the Aisne, the winning of the heights by Sir Douglas Haig were victories—yet they had led nowhere.
The plan of the Allies had to be abandoned and a new one formed. This decision of a change of strategical plan, then, closed the Allies' frontal attack upon the position of the Central Powers on the ridge of the Maise, and marked the end of the first phase of the battle of the Aisne.
For a musicological article on Venizel with further background information click here...
Imperial War Museum
A photograph in the MONEY R C (MAJOR) COLLECTION at the Imperial War Museum shows a machine gun position of the 1st Battalion, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) outside a wood at Venizel on the River Aisne, 17 September 1914.
|Captain W.A. Short, "an officer in command of a battery at the front". Published in The Times, September 1914||
|1914 in Six Songs of War.
|The rights are currently with Boosey and Hawkes - check here for availability|
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