The 23rd R.M.V.E.
End of April 1940, the 23rd RMVE is sent to the North of France and then to Belgium in order to take part to the imminent combats that will never happen; at the beginning of June the regiment is brought back on the Aisne front while the Guderian's and Rommels's tanks have succeeded their breakthrough.
As far as they can, the French armies are so far successfully containing the German rush on the Somme and in the Ardennes. The German launch then a third offensive on the Aisne river that they cross on two spots in Missy, nine kilometres from Soissons then in Pommiers on the other side of that city at five kilometres, pressing Soissons in a vice.
The Germans who had successfully emptied the Dunkerque pocket, forcing the British to repatriate their troops in a rush, and arresting more than 100.000 prisoners, turned their offensive southward on June the 5th 1940. The generalissimo Weygand establishes in catastrophe its frontline on the axis Aisne-Somme.The tanks of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division are rushing toward Rouen and establish a stronghold at Condé-la-Folie at twenty kilometres from Amiens. The 17th French Infantry Division, to which is associated the 23rd RMVE, is in charge of stopping this new German breakthrough. June 7th is for the volunteers of the 23rd the fire baptism.
The volunteers fight like lions and do not concede one inch of ground.
Every day the loss is a bit heavier; but that's not yet the most tragical .
By a not understandable and unacceptable transmission mistake, especially in war time, the 17th Infantry Division is sent by command more to the north but way too far, and find itself not only isolated but uncovered on all sides. The Germans get easily hands on the artillery and half of the 17th Division. The rest, the western flank where is also located the 23rd, not only continues the fight but even holds on. When arrived the cease-fire declaration, the balance-sheet reached 50% loss.
Like their comrades of the 21st and 22nd, the men of the 23rd RMVE have a monument in the village of Missy-le-Bois that's recalls their valiance.
Article by David Douvette. Published in Notre Volonté N° 2
New series (192), October November 1989