Fort Malmaison lies near the western end of Chemin des Dames on a former frontline of World War One.
In 1914 it was abandoned by the French because of its poor condition. When the Germans stumbled upon the empty fort they integrated it in their defensive line.
Pétain replaced Nivelle after the failure of the Nivelle offensive and the French needed a victory to restore faith in their commanders and to restore morale.
The Battle of Malmaison was fought on 23 October 1917 and was an operation on a wider scale than the fort alone, it was a major assault with tanks and planes. The prelude to the battle started a few days earlier on 17 October 1917 with bombardments on the fort which was turned into a ruined mess. After a final salvo from the artillery guns on 23 October 1917 the French troops advanced on the ruined Fort.
554 French soldiers from the 4th regiment stormed the fort around 06:00 and took it back from German occupation. Around the fort the attack on Chemin des Dames still raged.
The French paused to prepare a second attack and it was at this moment that the Germans launched their counter offensive and ran headlong into the French barrage.
On 25 October 1917 Pétain halted his attack, he had lost about 2000 dead and 14000 wounded, the German army had at least twice the numbers in casualties.
The loss of this position on the frontline caused the German army to withdrawal over the next week and give up the ridge to the French army.
On 27 may 1918, a year later, during their spring offensive the Germans retook Fort Malmaison and the ridge back from the French in a whirlwind attack of three hours.
4 months later the French Alpine Chasseurs attacked the Fort on 28 September 1918 and retook the fort again, pushing the German army from the Aisne region for good.
There is a little twist to this story, we just read about the Fort and her destruction and that it all took place during the First World War.
Next to the fort is a German military cemetery with fallen from the war, the Second World War that is.
The field is filled with black metal crosses which breath a total different atmosphere than the white / grey crosses or stones you are used to.
The cemetery holds 11.841 German soldiers who fell between 1940 and 1944, most of them killed during the liberation offensive of the Allied forces in Normandy.
The Location of the cemetery is between the city of Margival, the location of Wolfsschlucht 2 – a Hitlerbunker in France and the city of Chavignon.
Leave the main road – D23 to Chemin des Dames, the D18CD to find Fortress Malmaison.