Soissonnais Caves

 

In the first world war, the French army used stone quarries dug into the hills as barracks. These were extended and re-used during the second world war, however they did not serve the French as well.

The advent of modern warfare tactics on the part of the Germans made the French strategies wholly out of date, and unfortunately the French were unprepared to face an enemy that did not march on to the battlefield and line up before firing on the enemy.

During a recent trip to Soissons in France, I got the opportunity to visit some of the caves above the small village of Vic Sur Aisne. I was dumbfounded by the caves, and spent hours exploring them.

 

Exploring the caves

The first cave I visited was very picturesque. Appart from vast areas of black nothingness it contained two things of note, firstly was a burnt out car which laid untouched since the early nineteen hundreds, and the second was a chapel carved into the wall of the cave.

 

There is a story that I was told about the car: This cave network was captured by the Germans during the war. As a warning to the villagers not to resist the Germans, two members of the French resistance were tied into this car. They were pushed in through the cave entrance by the German aggressors, then the car was burnt with the members of the resistance inside it.

 

The chapel that is in this cave is quite impressive, you can really imagine the French soldiers visiting it to pray for their safe return, before leaving the caves for the battlefield.
The soldiers would exit the caves through a small chimney like exit that was positioned on the front line of the battle and only a little distance from the chapel.

 

The second cave network I visited was much bigger and contained several buildings outside of the main complex. The entrance way was grand and big enough to let supply trucks pass through.

 

We entered the cave by a large carved relief. This was dedicated to the battalions and their General who had occupied these caves.

 

The inside of this cave was vast, I must have spent over an hour wondering around and all the time finding things that I had not seen before. I came across what I thought was an air raid siren, and part of an old truck.

 

Life in the Caves

The thing that I found weird was how sterile the whole place was, there was nothing in the way of a creepy feeling which I expected to get.

It was hard to imagine anyone living in the caves, I think that if there had been more personal artefacts around, or more signs of inhabitence, it would have been a lot more creepy. The only worrying part of the experience was the fact that wild boars now lived in the caves, and the evidence for them was everywhere.

I found an artists impression of how life would have been in the caves at the time of there occupation.

Life in the caves must have been hard, and the conditions, unsanitary, there would have been a huge problem with disease, and the caves were so large and cold that the soldiers must have had to keep fires buring night and day.

?/09/01

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