Rendez-vous to visit the Bois-le-Prêtre Forest in Montauville
The road from Pétant Military Cemetery at Montauville leads to Bois-le-Prêtre or ‘The Priest’s Wood’. It was the focal point of violent, constant warfare between German and French soldiers from 1914 to 1915. In some places, the trenches of each side were separated by a distance of only 20 metres. The tour takes the visitor close to the historic Forester’s Lodge, the fountain at Père Hilarion hamlet, the Carmes Cross Monument and the war-devastated village of Fey-en-Haye.
Placed about twenty metres from the original wooden cross dating from the era of the Pont-à-Mousson Discalced (barefoot) Carmelite monks who worked in the forests, the Carmes Cross Monument is a work by the brilliant Nancy School artist, Victor Prouvé.
Bois-le-Prêtre forest also harbours a carved stone memorial, the ‘Borne de Terre Sacrée’ by Gaston Deblaize. Himself a soldier in the 356th Infantry Regiment, he returned after the war to the former battlegrounds and sculpted six commemorative stones bearing the battlefield names and holding twelve containers of earth soaked by the blood of the fallen from each major theatre of the Great War.
The sacred earth marker stones in the series are set at Les Invalides in Paris, Arlington National Cemetery in Washington USA, Guernic islet off Quiberon on the Breton peninsula, at Cinq Mars la Pile in Indre-et-Loire, Ajaccio in Corsica and Meures village in Haute-Marne. A seventh stone was presented to the hamlet of Patte D’Oie in Bois-le-Prêtre after the death of Gaston Deblaize.