Coucy and its big gun
The little town of Coucy-Le-Château is an ideal observation post: from the top of the castle keep you can see for 40 km around, from Noyon to Chauny; from Chauny to Compiègne and Laon. As it stands some way off from the Chemin des Dames front line, the town was relatively safe.
Down below, some 500m from the town, the railway had a small marshalling yard which was used for storage and handling.
On 1st September 1914 Coucy-le-Château fell into German hands.
In 1915, in the woods of the lower town near the marshalling yard, the German army set up, in the utmost secrecy, a gun with a range of 25 to 30km. Its main targets were Compiègne, Villers-Cotterêts and Oulchy-le-Château - all towns used to supply the French front. This cannon was operational by April 1915: the palace at Compiègne was the first place to be shelled.
Right up until 1916, the town of Coucy-le-Château did not suffer from attacks or battles. It was one of the towns occupied by the Germans. Later on, the situation gradually became more difficult. The German army conscripted civilians as workers and controlled food and other supplies. The German army changed tactics, deciding to consolidate its defence lines around the Hindenburg line.
While construction work went on at the new position, a scorched earth policy was put in place: anything that could be of use to the French army was taken away. Telephone lines and electrical machines were dismantled and transported behind the new lines. The land around La Fère was flooded. A bridge, footbridges and locks on the Oise-Aisne canal were destroyed.
The destruction of Coucy was also planned for 17th March 1917. After the inhabitants were evacuated, the town was pillaged and the castle keep blown up, using 28 tonnes of dynamite.
Visitors interested in Coucy-le-Château during World War I can take a guided tour which concentrates on the occupation, the big gun at Coucy and reconstruction of the town.