At a recent Antiques Fair I was looking through some old postcards and found this one of Coucy-le-Chateau, Framlingham’s twin town amongst them.
With the centenary commemorations of the start of World War this year I started wondering how Coucy-le-Chateau would have been affected by the war and decided to investigate further.
The postcard shows the Chateau de Coucy in the background and I was intrigued by the intricate tower and through my research discovered the following:
In World War I, the Germans bombed some churches and cathedrals as a matter of military policy, whilst the inevitable tides of conflict destroyed many others. Personal spite was even responsible as it turns out that the great tower of Coucy-le-Chateau was dynamited by retreating Germans in 1917.
The tower (donjon) of Coucy was one of the most remarkable monuments from the Middle Ages, home to the Coucy’s who protected Paris from invasion from the north. The tower was 210 feet high, 100 feet in diameter and the walls were 34 feet thick. The Germans used 30 tons of explosives in the tower, plus another ten tons in each of the four towers of the chateau. Each of the three gates was mined with a smaller charge. The explosion was detonated on 27th March 1917. At the same time, the adjacent village of Coucy was bombarded by artillery and transformed into ruins.
The U.S. Ambassador to France, William Sharp, upon witnessing the devastation in the wake of the retreat of German forces to the Hindenburg Line in the Spring of 1917, said, “After traversing a distance of more than one hundred miles in this invaded territory, I left with the conviction that history records no parallel in the thoroughness of destruction wrought either by a victorious or a vanquished army.”
Years of history destroyed in a matter of minutes by the ravages of war.