“The Cathedral of Notre Dame at Rheims was one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The framework was still standing when the Germans began their drive in 1918.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
During the week further heavy action erupted along the Western Front, particularly around Reims where the historic cathedral was hit by several shells. The Brisbane Courier reported these events on 25th February:
An official communique issued today states fifteen hundred shells were fired into Reims on Sunday and Monday. The interior of the roof of the cathedral was further smashed and 20 houses were ignited. Twenty of the civilian population were killed by the bombardment.
The shelling of the cathedral was regarded as an absolute war crime by the French. The building dated back to the 13th century and was universally regarded as a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture. The French later used photographs of the damaged cathedral for propaganda purposes as clear evidence of deliberate German policy to destroy buildings “rich in national and cultural heritage”.
The French issued another communiqué the next day regarding a developing action near Verdun, in northeastern France.
Our batteries blew up an ammunition depot north-west of Verdun. The heavy losses of the enemy at Bois Buchot on the 21st have been confirmed and their attack was completely repulsed.
An unusual British action was reported in the same newspaper involving trench warfare near Givenchy – the scene of heavy fighting during the previous two weeks. This involved a deception using “booby trapping” of the trenches with explosive mines:
The British forces near Givenchy occupied two German trenches on Saturday. After mining these trenches, the British withdrew, and the Germans reoccupied them. Then the mines were exploded and all the Germans were blown up.
The use of land mines became an increasingly-used tactic in the trenches as the war progressed. Both British and German armies used tunnellers to try and dig under the enemy positions and plant mines, after which they were exploded. This often led to large numbers of casualties and a break in the line to be exploited by waiting infantry forces.