Self-guided Tour Introduction
This is a self-guided tour of the places featured in the story of the Iron 12. The Iron 12 were made up of eleven British soldiers and M. Chalandre. The tour starts at Chapeau Rouge, the point where in August 1914 the I Corps gathered and fought a fierce battle before withdrawing to Etreux. Etreux was the site of the rear-guard action against the advancing Germans which saw a fight practically to the death. The tour moves on to the forests and fields where the surviving soldiers hid desperately, and the village of Iron where they were eventually concealed in a mill owned by the Logez family and in the Chalandre family home until the point of their capture. The tour of the village takes in the former site of the mill, the houses and remains of houses of key characters and the graveyard and the graves of some of the French civilians involved in this tragedy. Your journey finishes in the town of Guise where the Iron 12 were beaten after capture, summarily tried without mercy and then executed. There you will see the place of their trial, their names included on the WW1 and WW2 wars local monument, their place of execution and original burial spot. Your tour will finish at the Guise cemetery where the soldiers’ War Commission graves and the grave of M Chalandre who was executed with them are located.
The route follows as closely as possible, the route of the withdrawal, the most likely routes taken after the battle and subsequent capture. Some of the places and countryside have changed in the past 100 years or so, but in many cases time has stood still. You will be able to stand where they stood, you will be able to see what they would have seen, but only in your wildest imagination will you be able to feel the fear and terror they would have felt. There’s the initial terror of realising you are vastly outnumbered by the advancing enemy. Later, there’s the day after day fear of capture and having to live on wit and guile. At the point of capture there would have been the feeling of futility, tinged with the need to protect your French helpers and the helplessness at the trial. Finally there is the ultimate horror, facing your own death by firing squad across a pit that will become your grave, and the realisation you will never see your loved ones again.
The Tour Route
The tour will take a minimum of three to four hours and possibly considerably longer if you linger and savour the unique, emotionally-charged atmosphere. It’s quite possible to walk or cycle the route but we assume you will be travelling by car. The area is located in north-east France in the Aisne region. The terrain (apart from the grounds of the Château) is largely flat. The weather in this corner of France can be bitterly cold in winter, so spring, summer or autumn are probably the best times of the year to visit.
Expect to see a number of fellow visitors on and around the anniversary of the battle on the 26th/27th August and on Armistice Day; otherwise it will be relatively quiet. A number of descendants from the Chalandre and Logez families still live in and near Iron as do some of the descendants from others involved in the Iron 12 story. The mayor of Iron, M. Gruselle, is the great-grandson of Madame Léonie Logez and he takes a keen interest in the Iron 12 story.
The spot where the soldiers were executed is in the grounds of Guise Château and if you wish to visit (and we recommend that you do) you should call ahead to arrange a time when someone can accompany you. The Château is open to the public, but the execution spot is not normally accessible. Please call the Château custodian on +33 3 23 61 11 76 and ask to be accompanied to the soldiers’ execution spot. You will normally be asked to arrive after 16:00 when it is quieter. The office is usually managed by English speakers and they are quite used to receiving such requests. Please don’t forget to pay your admission fee and/or leave a donation.
Some properties we shall see are occupied. Please respect the current owner’s property and privacy.
We hope you enjoy your self-guided tour and we welcome any feedback you would like to provide either by email to David Arrowsmith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Hedley Malloch at email@example.com. Alternatively you can use the feedback form on the Iron 12 website, https://iron12.org/contact-us/
People following this tour do so at their own risk and the Iron12 Memorial Charity accepts no responsibility for personal safety.
The accuracy of places, place names and facilities detailed on this tour are made to the best ability of the Iron12 Memorial Charity. The Iron12 Memorial Charity cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions.