On 2 November they withdrew down the slopes to the north bank of the Ailette, and the French occupied without resistance Courteçon, Cerny, Allies, and Chevreux, which they had vainly with thousands of casualties endeavoured to seize in April and May. The Chemin des Dames was now really won, and the contrast was pointed between the two methods and their success.
During the night of April 25, 1917, the Germans renewed their attempts to recover lost positions on the high ground near the Chemin-des-Dames, and especially west of Cerny. West of Craonne they hurled masses of men against Hurtebise Farm with disastrous results. Eastward in the vicinity of Ville-aux-Bois the French artillery dropped shells with mathematical precision on the German lines.
"I've just told him you wish to speak with him for a minute." I pressed the rubber disk to my ear. "Hello!" I said. "Hello!" came back the thin-strained answer. "This is such and such a trench" giving the number "in front of Cerny. What do you want to know?" "What's the news there?" I stammered fatuously. A pleasant little laugh tinkled through the strainer.
The position of the French was decidedly favorable for important operations against the enemy. If they moved up the Rheims-Laon road, and pushed north from Cerny with a strong force, it would be possible to outflank from the south the whole German line, which here turns to the northwest in a wide sweep from Laon, through La Fère to St. Quentin and Cambrai.
On the Aisne front during the night of June 30, 1917, the Germans attacked near Cerny and Corbeny, when their storming detachments were almost annihilated by the devastating fire of the French artillery. To the northeast of Cerny the Germans succeeded in gaining a small salient which had first been leveled by their guns.
"The following letter, which refers to the fighting on the Aisne and was found on a German officer of the Seventh Reserve Corps, has been printed and circulated to the troops: "'Cerny, South of Paris, Sept 17. My Dear Parents: Our corps has the task of holding the heights south of Cerny in all circumstances till the Fourteenth Corps on our left flank can grip the enemy's flank.
All the tobacco which can be spared is sent to the men in the front trenches. As long as they smoke and keep on smoking they can stand that! "You see," he went on painstakingly, "the situation out there at Cerny is like this: The French and English, but mainly the English, held the ground firSt. We drove them back and they lost very heavily.
Northeast of Cerny the Germans succeeded in occupying French trenches on a 216-yard front, but at all other points where they advanced the French counterattacks and barrage fire rolled them back and wrought disaster among their ranks. During the last week of May, 1917, the French forces along the Chemin-des-Dames only fought on the defensive.
They broke and passed away like the fleeting cloud shadows you may watch floating across the fields and wooded slopes of Jilové, Černy Kostelec and Zbraslav to the blue hills of Hradešin beyond. But the castle still stands a sentinel over ancient Prague. It must have been a pleasant post, that of sentry upon a look-out tower of the Castle of Prague.
Heavy artillery fighting continued during July 1, 1917, in the sector between Cerny and Ailles on the French front. At a late hour French troops carried out a spirited attack on both sides of the Ailles-Paissy road and ejected the Germans from the trenches they had captured in the previous week.