After several preliminary attacks by the allied forces, the ‘Artois offensive’ occured on 9 May. The division of General Maistre, in charge of expelling the enemy from the last two spurs of the massif and of seizing the upper ridge, consisted of three infantry regiments and three battalions of Chasseurs (Light Infantry). On 9 May, at 10.00 am, the first assault waves charged. After two hours, three defence lines were taken in spite of the German machine-gunners firing non-stop from behind a mount of earth sacks and thick armours. But the attack got out of breath very rapidly in front of the tremendous German resistance. The units were suffering serious losses, but the soldiers moved forward leaping from one shell-hole to another and fought with grenades, bayonets and even knives under the fire of the German machine guns. As the night fell, it was lighted by the shells and rockets, and filled with the cries of the wounded, the explosions, and the bang of the bullets.
On the night of 12 May, the soldiers came out from their trenches, and throwing themselves on the ground, crawled toward the front of the chapel, where the German troops were located. A hand-to-hand combat started. Soon, the German soldiers were exhausted. The French soldiers passed the collapsed chapel and seized the Lorette ridge but did not yet control the whole massif. The German forces managed to maintain their position on the two spurs of la Blanche-Voie and Souchez. However, the spur of Souchez was conquered in the following days. Nevertheless, the Germans repulsed all the attacks against la Blanche-Voie. For eight days, hidden in their trenches of la Blanche-Voie, the German soldiers fired at the French lines without respite.
On 22 May, the trenches of la Blanche-Voie were conquered and almost the whole massif of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette was controlled by French troops, except the lower part of the Souchez spur slopes, which was finally conquered after thirteen days of struggle. At the end of it all, the losses were very high in both sides. On the battlefield, 3,000 German corpses were counted, with many more unaccounted for.
The church in ruins of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire is located just below the hill of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and is called “old church” by the people of the village. It was erected at the beginning of the XVI century (around 1505) by the lord of Carency, Charles of Bourbon after the recovery of his daughter Louise from a mental depression. The church was built under the supervision of Jacques le Caron, architect of the belfry of Arras, in the Gothic style of the XV century. The church was classified as a Historical Monument at the beginning of the century (1904-1905). After getting destroyed during the First World War, the administration decided to keep it as it was after consolidating it in 1935.
Church before 1914.
Church after 1914.
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