The Eastern part
of the Western Front:
Sentier du Bunkers - Burnhaupt-le-Bas
Artillery position (4)
First Aid Station (5)
Inscription on bunker
Washing ditch (7) then Constructed before the French revolution and used till 1960
Washing ditch (7) now
Bunker at lake
Position of five bunkers (10) comprises men shelters (see picture) and munitions storage bunkers.
Inscription on infantry bunker
Artillery observation position on top of bunker
If you have not visited this region before we suggest to visit other sites in the area mentioned in part 1 of this travel guide to fill the remainder of the day or you can head straight to the next site.
From Burnhaupt-le-Bas take the A36 and then the A35 in the direction of Strasbourg. Leave the A35 at junction 17 Selestat and take the N59 to St. Marie-aux-Mines. In St. Marie-aux-Mines do not take the tunnel but follow the N59 to Col. de St. Marie. Park at the sign for the French Military Cemetery.
2: Col. St. Marie
It it clear that this was a strategic area for any west to east (or visa versa) movement. Col. St. Marie was the sight of heavy fighting in 1914, 1918 and 1940. There are two memorials to individuals (1914 and 1940), a military cemetery and a German bunker.
On July 31, 1914, at 3 o'clock in the morning German Uhlans and artillery batteries appear at St. Marie-aux-Mines but they leave again only to re-appear and firmly occupy the city when the French occupy the Col. St. Marie in August. The city is used as a base for the attacks on the surrounding mountains, which makes the city a prime target for French artillery. From November 1914 to November 1918 the front doesn't change much with the French on the top of Bernardstein and of Violu, and the Germans holding the slopes firmly.
Hotel Belle Vue 2008
Hotel Belle Vue 1914
German bunker on Col. St. Marie
German bunker on Col. St. Marie
Memorial to Lt Sternberg and Boudet, 18 Comp. 221 R.I. 22 August 1914
Continue on the N59 to St. Die where it is recommended you stay the night.
From St. Die take the N59 to Raon-l'Etape and from there the D392 in the direction of Schirmeck. Park at the French military cemetery of Grandfontaine-le-Donon, opposite the restaurant.
Explanation sign at Grandfontain-du-Donon Necropole Nationale
Unknown French Chasseur killed August 1914 (see the stones on Le Petit Donon below)
An sign in the cemetery explains how on 21-22 August 1914 French (mainly of the 21st Bn. Chasseurs a Pied) and German forces clashed on the Petit Donon. It also tells how in this region the first German Regimental flag was captured by the French and how it was proudly displayed in Paris. Research by our guide Eric Mansuy using contemporary letters in the possession of relatives of the soldiers involved show that the true story is slightly different. Some of the German soldiers involved were from Alsace / Loraine themselves and considered themselves more French then German. Many of these troops took the first opportunity to surrender. One of these soldiers told his French capturers that he was the flag barer and that he had hidden 'that bloody German flag' on a nearby farm and that he would gladly show where it was. This is how the first German Regimental flag was 'captured'....
Follow the path on the right of the cemetery into the forest. Here two large German concrete structures can be found close to each other: an artillery position and a command center.
Artillery position at Grandfontain-du-Donon
Open Artillery position at Grandfontain-du-Donon
Command center at Grandfontain-du-Donon
4: The open cemetery
of Le Petit Donon
Get back to your car, right onto the D392 and turn left unto the D393. After 1,5 km turn left onto the D145 and immediately turn right onto an unmarked road which will take you to a parking and picnic site. From here you can walk up the Petit Donon. It can be easy recognized because it is stripped of all its trees by the 1990's hurricane that past through.
The bare summit of Le Petit Donon 2006
The whole hill is littered with stones that have a number on them and commemorate different numbers of Unknown French or German soldiers. From the memorial on top we know if was a Gefreiter (Private) Gerhardt who made these inscriptions. The photo below shows two stones in sequence (No's 33 and 34) but usually there is no logical sequence. There are stones that have tumbled down the mountain over the years or fell over hiding their inscribed side. Research in archives by people researching this site has to date not brought a map to light. It is also unknown if the unknowns are still buried on the site or if they were removed during or after the war.
Former(?) cemetery of Le Petit Donon
Memorial made by Gefreiter Gerhardt
How we got to the sites mentioned below we can no longer trace (it was a tough vacation) but they can be found on detail maps that can be bought locally.
5: Gallery under road
Entrance to underground gallery passing under modern road Col de la Cote de l'Engin
6: Artillery positions at l’Etoile
Covered Artillery position at l’Etoile
7: La Corbeille
Trench remains on La Corbeille
La Corbeille: entrance to 76 meters long concrete tunnel connecting two observation / machine gun positions
La Corbeille: 76 meters long concrete tunnel
An Unfortunate Region 2006/2008