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Trench raids were usually short, bloody and merciless affairs. The objective of the raiders was to enter the enemy positions, take a handful of prisoners then kill and destroy as much as possible before returning to their own positions. The raiding parties had little means of handling large numbers of prisoners and those enemy soldiers who could not be taken back… could not be left alive either.

Often, on a well executed raid, the occupants of the enemy trench had no chance to fight. They would be caught in their bunkers or shelters, unable to exit or fight their way out. In these instances the bombardiers were called on to do their gruesome work. 

Louis Ferrieux, a bombardier in the 252eme R.I. was a volunteer that took part in a trench raid to the North-East of the village of Avocourt, the Western flank of the hill 304 battlefield. The 252eme R.I. fought on the west bank of Verdun on Hill 304 and the Mort-Homme for most of 1916 until March 1917 as part of the 64th Infantry Division. Opposing them in the opening months of 1917 were the Badeners of the German 28. Reserve Division.

Left: The sleeve insignia of the Bombardier

Above: The remains of a French bayonet found on the field where the raid took place.

From the regimental war diary of the 252e R.I.... 

To open the maps of the area where the raid took place, please click HERE

23rd of February: On this date a raid on the German salient in the Bois Carre (at Avocourt, Verdun) took place. The salient was known as the "Marmite de la Sorciere". The raid was carried out by volunteers from the 252eme Regiment d'Infanterie under the command of Sous Lieutenant Chevenot of the 13eme Cie. His second in command was Sous Lieutenant Rougheol of the 21eme Cie.

Accompanying them were 6 Sergeants, 5 Caporals, 25 Soldiers and 10 Bombardiers.



Left: Two French grenades found on the field in front of the German trenches


The Raid.
...  

The group was to leave their positions at the "Capitaine Bouzol" trench near point 2315. It was all to start at 6:00am after the engineers had exploded two charges which were to blow a path through the German wire. After a brief delay the engineers were ready. At 6:06am the charge on the left exploded, the fuse on the second charge had failed. In an instant the raiders sprang forward pouring through the gap in the wire as the French barrage came down behind the German positions. Arriving in the first trench the raiders found three German soldiers. One tried to raise his rifle to his shoulder and was wounded in the face with a pistol shot. Other Germans ran along trench A-B towards S.

If the Charge on the right had exploded and the raiders had been able to enter the German lines in two places the escape of these Germans would have been cut off. As the Germans pulled back they threw grenades wounding some of the raiding party.  

The Raiders occupied the Trenchline A-B. They discovered that two Bunkers/Shelters in Sap 1 and 2 were occupied by Germans. They shouted for them to come out but when no movement resulted they threw in incendiary grenades.  

Sous Lieutenant Chevenot moved towards bunker 3 and close to the entrance he took another German Prisoner. Hearing voices from within the bunker he called a few times, ordering the occupants out. As noone appeared he and the grenadiers threw Incendiary grenades (10 grenades) through the entrance of the shelter.

Sous.Lt. Chevenot ordered the pullback and all the raiders made it back to the French lines, taking with them the 4 prisoners mentioned above.  

The raiding party had 7 wounded, mostly lightly. They had been wounded by grenade and artillery fire. The German barrage had started almost as soon as the raiding party had entered German lines. It now lay in nomans land and the party had to cross through it to return to their lines.  

The raid had been ordered by the General commanding the 31. C.A. at the Camp de Feu a Cheval the men had practised on a mock up of the Trenchline. The training had started on the 14th. The raid had been planned for the 18th but the artillery preparation had not achieved the desired results.


Right: The Citation for the Croix de Guerre awarded to a Bombardier on the raid.

The Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 252e R.I. cites at the order of the Regiment..

Ferrieux, Louis. Mle 7303, Class of 1915, Soldier of the C.H.R.  

"A soldier full of bravery. Volunteered to be part of the party that on the 23rd of February 1917 executed a raid on strongly fortified German positions. The raid was a success and the party returned with prisoners after having destroyed 3 occupied bunkers"  

The award was made on the 1st of March 1917 but the document was issued on the 14th of January 1920 by the 52nd Infantry Regiment. The 52. R.I. was the Patron regiment of the 252: R.I. which had been disbanded in June 1918 due to heavy losses..

Above: The French positions were at the bottom of the gentle slope on the right. The Germans were just inside the treeline to the left.

 
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