Review June/July 2018 n°263 Review June/July 2018 n°263

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Gérard Métral

Gérard Métral is the son of Alphonse Métral, one of the founders of the Association des Rescapés des Glières. After studying art in Paris, he became assistant to the sculptor Émile Gilioli, maker of the National Monument to the Resistance at Les Glières. Today, he is chairman of the Association des Glières.

Gérard Métral
Gérard Métral - © DR

Can you present your father, Alphonse Métral, to us?

Born in 1921 into a humble family, my father started work at age 16, as a lathe operator. In the late 1930s, he joined the JOC (Christian Worker Youth). His responsibilities covered the department to begin with, then the two Savoies, and ultimately the Isère, Drôme and Hautes-Alpes.

In early 1943, he decided to dodge Compulsory Labour Service (STO) and set up a camp for objectors who, like him, refused to go to work in Germany. There, a special relationship was formed between the maquis and a poor yet generous population, for whom fraternity really meant something. Life in this maquis, in perfect osmosis with local inhabitants, was the germ of what became known as the “Les Glières spirit”. On 31 January 1944, the maquis of Manigod was the first to respond to Tom Morel’s call to make their way to the Les Glières plateau; my father was to become Morel’s second-in-command.

 

How did he pass on his story and the memory of the Resistance to you?

The story of Les Glières was for a long time known only to the survivors (despite the publication in 1946 of a book describing their fight for freedom). So it was not until later that my father felt the need to tell that story, not just at home but through the association of which he was by then the chairman. He believed that, as time went by, it was important for the memory to be preserved.

The museum, then the construction of the National Monument to the Resistance on the Les Glières plateau, are important milestones in the process of telling that story. I naturally took part in this process and I think, in retrospect, although he never expressed it openly, that it was his wish for me to keep the “Les Glières spirit” alive. Because of my occupation, the construction of the monument marked the start of my involvement.

 

What were the different stages involved in erecting the monument?

In the early 1970s, a road was built giving access to the Les Glières plateau, but there was nothing to indicate the presence of the maquis. So the association decided to erect a monument that would speak to future generations. A national jury, comprised of experts from the art world, was set up and a call for projects was issued to choose the artist.

From a total of 85 entries, an initial shortlist of five was drawn up, before the sculptor Émile Gilioli’s architectural sculpture was chosen. Far removed from the designs traditionally used for commemorative monuments, the work’s clean lines and the fervour it exudes make it an ode to freedom. At the official opening of the monument, on 2 September 1973, in his speech André Malraux celebrated the exemplary nature of this maquis, leading it to become famous all over the world.

 

What activities does the Association des Glières carry out today to promote this remembrance?

In partnership with the Haute-Savoie departmental authority, two sites have been opened to receive school groups and visitors: one at the National Cemetery of Morette, the other on the Les Glières plateau.

Aside from the commemorative ceremonies, which always attract large numbers of people, the association’s activities take a variety of forms: the creation of a “Remembrance Trail”, with information terminals in each commune in the surrounding area; the organisation of a walk in the footsteps of the maquisards, for 2 000 primary school pupils each year; the publication of an annual themed magazine and books devoted to the history of this maquis; and the development of a website.

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Nantua Museum

In a redesigned layout, accessible to all, the Ain Museum of the Resistance and Deportation gives an up-to-date interpretation of the events of the Second World War, through the experiences of the inhabitants of the Ain and the strategic issues of importance to the department.

 

Poster of the exhibition Les Jours Sans (Days Without), held at the Nantua Museum.
Poster of the exhibition Les Jours Sans (Days Without), held at the Nantua Museum. - © Yannick Bailly / Item

The Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de l’Ain is housed in the former Nantua prison, in the heart of the Haut-Bugey area, an important remembrance site for the Resistance. It was founded in 1985 by the association of friends of the museum, comprised of Resistance veterans and deportees. Formally opened on 18 October 1986, it passed into municipal control in 1990, and has been run by the departmental museums directorate since 2004. Its rich collection (films, photographs, posters, uniforms, military equipment, deportees’ belongings, etc.), consisting mostly of donations from Ain inhabitants, enabled it to obtain ‘Controlled Museum’ status in 1992 and the Musée de France label in 2003.

 

The museum renovation was completed in September 2017, with support from the DPMA’s regional partnerships programme. The priorities were to ensure accessibility, update its historiographical approach in line with current thinking and develop the collections. The different visitor resources and tools on offer (multimedia, touchscreens, etc.) mean that the museum is accessible to a broad public, including people with disabilities. The display, based around the experiences of Ain inhabitants between 1939 and 1945, reveals the strategic importance of this area, situated between Lyon and Geneva, and its peculiarities (divided by the war, a maquis stronghold, sustained three German counter-attacks in 1944 and fierce repression). First-hand accounts of engagements between 1940 and 1944 punctuate the display. Other issues addressed are the reconciling of history and memory in this place imbued with the spirit of its founders, and the construction of remembrance and its usages since 1945.

 

A depiction of “life in the maquis”, built by the founders in 1993, has been preserved. An important element in the museum’s history, this space presents the Resistance from the point of view of those who participated in it. Five multimedia terminals offer the opportunity to hear extracts from eye-witness accounts. An animated map places the Ain in the context of 1939 and the successive occupations: German, in June 1940, then German and Italian, in November 1942. Dedicated areas look at what life was like in the Pays de Gex. Objects like a wood-gas generator and a bicycle with tyres made of springs demonstrate how people had to adapt to the restrictions of wartime. Three areas discuss the early resistance, the birth of the movements, the role of networks, the Armée Secrète (Secret Army) and the unification of the Resistance. A second animated map shows the locations of the maquis camps, parachute drops and acts of sabotage. A series of rooms look at the structure of the maquis and the help received from the Allies in the form of two-way radios (MCR-1, S-Phone transmitter). There is an immersive area devoted to parachute drops and acts of sabotage.

 

Two documentaries analyse images from the film Ceux du maquis, which was made in the Cize and Granges camps, and footage of the maquis parade in Oyonnax on 11 November 1943. A specific area deals with the repression, persecution and rescuing of Jews. Next, the battles for Liberation, the end of the war, the return of the deportees, the reality of the concentration camps and the impact of the deportations are discussed.

 

The construction of remembrance post-1945 through monumental heritage, the history of the voluntary organisations, decorations, the Righteous Among the Nations, the changing face of commemorations and the role of a Resistance museum today, all enrich the visit. In addition, the exhibition Les Jours Sans (Days Without), produced by the Resistance and Deportation History Centre in Lyon, runs from July to November.

Florence Saint Cyr Gherardi - Museum director

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A new national cemetery in Vercors

In 2018, the French State will acquire the Pas de l’Aiguille site, in the department of Isère, the 274th military cemetery to come under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Armed Forces. This will complete the process of acquisition of the three cemeteries in Vercors, begun in 2014.

 

The Pas de l’Aiguille cemetery.
The Pas de l’Aiguille cemetery. - © Entre mer et montagne

The Vercors plateau, which rises to a height of 2 300 metres, has the appearance of a natural fortress, 60 km long and 30 km wide. In 1940, the site became a refuge for all those who were victims of the repressive measures of the occupier and the Vichy regime. With the invasion of the southern zone by the Germans in November 1942, Vercors became a centre of resistance for those who rejected the idea of a subservient France.

 

VERCORS, A TRAGIC EPIC

 

In 1942, the idea emerged that Vercors might support the Allied landings expected in Provence. Captain Alain Le Ray was charged with drawing up the Plan Montagnards, whose execution was entrusted to squadron commander François Huet, Vercors’ military commander in 1944, and Eugène Chavant, the maquis’ civilian leader. By early 1944, there were nearly 400 maquisards in Vercors. This natural citadel was becoming a threat to the enemy.

 

On 6 June 1944, Vercors responded to the order for general mobilisation. The message broadcast by Radio Londres gave the signal for armed action. Volunteers flocked here in response, so that there were a total of 4 000 by July. The Republic was restored and the French flag flew over this territory declared “free”. With support from General Pflaum, General Niehoff, Wehrmacht commander for the southeast, decided to break the resistance. The first confrontations took place in Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte, on 13 and 15 June 1944. Several hundred maquisards initially stood their ground against the German troops, but were forced to retreat when the enemy returned on 15 June with more than 3 000 men.

 

The village fell into the hands of the Wehrmacht, who showed no mercy, killing the wounded and setting fire to homes. Just 11 of the village’s 93 houses escaped destruction. The decisive blow was dealt on 21 July, at Vassieux-en-Vercors. The Germans attacked on all sides: by road, over the mountain passes and by air. Over 10 000 soldiers invaded the plateau.

 

All across Vercors (at Pas de l’Aiguille, Valchevrière, La Croix Perrin), fighting raged between the enemy and the maquisards. After days of combat, orders were given for the maquis to disperse. More than 600 Resistance fighters and one hundred Germans were killed. The civilian population also paid a heavy price: 201 people were killed or executed, 41 others deported and 573 houses were destroyed. On 4 August 1945, Vassieux-en-Vercors was decreed a “Companion Town of Liberation”, a rare honour accorded to only four other communes: Paris, Nantes, Grenoble and Île-de-Sein. The maquisards of Vercors went on to fight in the First Army.

 

All of these sites today still bear the scars of 1944, and have been transformed into places of remembrance by local actors and the Ministry of the Armed Forces Directorate for Heritage, Remembrance and Archives (DPMA).

 

THOSE WHO “DIED FOR FRANCE”

 

At the end of the war, three cemeteries were built by the National Association of Volunteer Combatants and Pioneers of Vercors (ANPCVV). In the hills above Grenoble, the cemetery of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte contains the remains of soldiers and maquisards who “died for France” in the fighting of June 1944. Ninety-eight Resistance fighters are buried there, and among them stand the tomb of Eugène Chavant and the cenotaph of François Huet.

 

The cemetery of Vassieux-en-Vercors contains the graves of 80 maquisards, 58 inhabitants of Vassieux and 49 unknown soldiers killed in the fighting of July 1944. The metal structures of two gliders, used by the Luftwaffe on 21 July, are preserved on the site. There is a “remembrance room”, in memory of all the victims of Vercors, and a plaque which tells how the body of Sergeant Raymond Anne, a maquisard from Vassieux, lies in the crypt of Mont Valérien, as a symbol of the sacrifice of all those maquisards who gave their lives for France. More than 1600 metres above sea level, the cemetery of Pas de l’Aiguille, in the commune of Chichilianne, holds the graves of seven Resistance fighters and one shepherd killed in the fighting of 21 to 24 July 1944.

 

DEVELOPING THE NATIONAL CEMETERIES

 

In 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the fighting in Vercors, the ANPCVV decided to transfer ownership of these sites to the State, which already maintained them, for them to be made into national cemeteries. The cemeteries of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte and Vassieux-en-Vercors passed into State hands in 2015, and the Pas de l’Aiguille site, the smallest, highest-altitude cemetery in France, will do so this year.

 

As part of its remembrance policy, the DPMA funds the upkeep and restoration of these cemeteries according to three principles: the application of a landscaping charter, introduced in 2015; the use of more environmentally friendly maintenance methods, with the entry into force of the ‘Zero Pesticides’ plan in 2017; and the implementation of a ‘Planned Accessibility Agenda’ for these remembrance sites. Since 2014, the graves at the cemetery of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte have been adorned with badges bearing the emblem of the ‘Pioneers’, and a series of works have been carried out on the external walls of the cemeteries. A flagpole is to be erected at the cemetery of Pas de l’Aiguille in 2018.

 

To encourage remembrance tourism, historical information panels have been installed in each of the cemeteries. Meanwhile, the ‘Remembrance Room’ at Vassieux-en-Vercors now has an interpretation area. A frieze explains the role and history of the Vercors Pioneers. A permanent exhibition, Visages du Vercors (Faces of Vercors), was opened in July 2017 on the edge of the cemetery, which pays tribute to the maquisards and civilians who took part or were killed in the fighting.

 

Finally, the DPMA and its operator, the National Office for Veterans and Victims of War (ONAC-VG), signed a framework agreement with the commune of Vassieux-en-Vercors, the Vassieux-en-Vercors Resistance Museum, the Vassieux-en-Vercors Memorial and the ANPCVV, aimed at fully integrating these remembrance sites with the local tourism fabric and supporting local actors in their regional development activities. A similar agreement has been signed for Saint-Nizier and will be for Pas de l’Aiguille. In this way, the DPMA demonstrates its desire to work in partnership with local stakeholders to preserve the spirit of these sites. In 2019, a tourism brochure presenting these three cemeteries will be published.

Guillaume Pichard - Head of Section, Cemeteries and Regional Partnerships, DPMA

For further information

Remembrance sites

Vercors Resistance Memorial

Vassieux-en-Vercors, martyred village

 

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Remembrance tourism in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

The Second World War left deep scars on the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes landscape. Today, the region tells its story through its museums, memorials and history centres, all of which are coordinated at regional level by Réseau Mémorha to ensure the consistency of their cultural and remembrance offering.

Chambon-sur-Lignon Remembrance Site.
Chambon-sur-Lignon Remembrance Site. - © © Office de tourisme du Haut-Lignon

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    A recently created administrative unit, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is still searching for some kind of geohistorical unity. Its varied terrain stretches from the Massif Central to the highest Alpine summits, the Loire basin to that of the Rhône, in a mosaic of landscapes. While the Auvergne is in the heart of France, Rhône-Alpes occupies its eastern fringes, which underwent continual transformations until Savoy was annexed to France in 1860.

     

    Due to its location on the borders of Switzerland and Italy, with access to the Mediterranean via the Rhône corridor (a major transport axis since Antiquity), a particularly dynamic industrial fabric (coal mining, iron and steel, chemicals, rubber, textiles, paper and electronics) and the existence of important urban centres, the region was historically a staging-post, attracting migrant settlements and cultural synthesis. The mountains of this vast territory are commonly represented as a place of protection for men and women down the ages: Protestants sought refuge in Vivarais and Dauphiné after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and, during the Second World War, those avoiding compulsory labour service in Germany joined the maquis of Beaujolais, Jura and Margeride. It is to the latter period, particularly well illustrated in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, that we shall turn our attention, as we roam the region’s paysage-histoire (‘landscape-history’), to borrow Julien Gracq’s expression, exploring places that are today firmly embedded in the collective memory, together with other, less well-known sites.

     

    EXCEPTIONAL SECOND WORLD WAR HERITAGE

    Like Normandy and Provence, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes possesses exceptional Second World War heritage. Numerous remembrance sites and a myriad of discreet locations welcome visitors, bearing witness both to the darker aspects of wartime (collaboration, internment, repression, persecution, physical destruction and massacres of civilians) and to brighter aspects, such as the different forms of resistance (armed, civilian, intellectual, spiritual, urban and rural) and solidarity. As early as the 1920s and 1930s, exiled Armenians, Spaniards, Germans and Italians came here, fleeing persecution, dictatorship or civil war. After the French State was installed, they were joined by minorities subject to arbitrary racial laws. Thus, large numbers of foreign Jews found refuge in Dieulefit (Drôme), Megève (Savoie), Villard-de-Lans (Isère), Vic-sur-Cère (Cantal) and Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), holiday resorts with a flourishing hotel trade and social and medical facilities. When the Vichy Government brought in its anti-Semitic policy, the warm welcome they received gave way to rescue actions, as humanitarian organisations arranged their passage to Switzerland.

    From very early on, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region was the scene of large-scale resistance actions, which were further stepped up when German troops arrived; a stream of actions, some heroic, some tragic, such as the rising of the maquis of Mont Mouchet and Vercors against the occupying German army, and the fleeting restoration of the Republic in Annonay (Ardèche) in the summer of 1944. Prominent figures engaged in the Resistance were involved to varying degrees in actions in the region, like Jean Moulin, Lucie and Raymond Aubrac, the journalist Yves Farge, writer Jean Prévost, Colonel Henri Romans-Petit and Abbé Alexandre Glasberg.

     

    Among the remembrance sites and areas that are representative of the period, we can cite, in no particular order: the spa town of Vichy, chosen as capital of the French State; the Maison d’Izieu (Ain), a memorial to the Jewish children murdered after their arrest on 6 April 1944; the École des Cadres d’Uriage staff training school (Isère), a laboratory for national revolutionary ideology; the Ferme d’Ambel (Vercors-Drôme), considered one of the first French maquis; Fort Barraux (Isère), where foreign Jews and Gypsies were interned; the Montluc National Memorial (Lyon), a military prison of the Vichy regime, requisitioned by the occupier; and the Murat Deportees Memorial (Cantal), in memory of the 120 people deported in retaliation for the events of June 1944.

     

    The promotion of these sites and the historical figures associated with them raises the question of the choices inherent to remembrance policy, past and present, as a result of which certain remembrance sites of particular interest may be given prominence to the detriment of others, overshadowing the lesser-known sites. Meanwhile, voluntary organisations, researchers and artists campaign for public recognition of ignored or neglected subjects, through books, exhibitions, films and monuments.

     

    In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, a network was founded in 2011, with support from both central and regional government. Comprised of voluntary organisations, researchers and remembrance sites, Réseau Mémorha studies the redeployment of Second World War remembrance across the region, promoting partnerships for the implementation of cultural and scientific development projects.

     

    FROM REMEMBRANCE PILGRIMAGE TO HERITAGE DESIGNATION

    At the end of the war, certain sites were recognised as particularly emblematic by the French authorities, and remembrance ceremonies were held there in the presence of State dignitaries. They immediately became pilgrimage sites. This was the case of the maquis cemetery of Les Glières (Morette, Haute-Savoie), where families flocked to the graves of their loved ones. Vercors similarly attracted large numbers of “remembrance pilgrims”, in particular Vassieux (Drôme), the site of savage repression and systematic destruction. This martyred village made a powerful impression on visitors, its rebuilt houses, tricolour flags, monumental sculptures, shells of German gliders and numerous stelae forming a tableau of remembrance.

     

    In the 1960s and 70s, these “remembrance territories” saw the opening of the first voluntary museums, in Grenoble (Isère) in 1966, Romans (Drôme) in 1974 and Bonneville (Haute-Savoie) in 1979, then over the following decade in Frugières-le-Pin (Haute-Loire) in 1982 and Nantua (Ain) in 1985. In these “hotspots” of Resistance remembrance, to borrow the expression coined by Serge Barcellini, chairman of Le Souvenir Français, Resistance veterans played a central role, sharing memories, collections and relics, and telling their own battle stories.

     

    In the 1990s, as surviving veterans became fewer, some local councils got to grips with the issues of managing local remembrance. A proactive remembrance policy was put in place, embodied by educational outreach officers. It was a civic and political initiative, by institutions keen to be the heirs of Resistance values and curb revisionist movements. It was also a question of identity for some local areas, reliant on the events of the Second World War to distinguish themselves, as in the case of Lyon and Grenoble, which both claimed the title of “Resistance capital”.

     

    Political interests became aligned with the efforts of the voluntary sector, and support, mostly in the form of funding, was given for the creation of new sites, such as the Le Teil Museum (Ardèche), which opened in 1992, and the Saint-Étienne Memorial (Loire), in 1999.

     

    This shift from the field of memory to the development or “professionalisation” of heritage at local level, was part of a nationwide trend which saw the establishment of clear civic and educational aspirations towards the end of the 1990s.

     

    In the early 2000s, government support for remembrance sites took on a new face, and some sites run by the voluntary sector were transferred to State hands. Through the bequest of their collections to local authorities, voluntary-sector museums like the one in Mont Mouchet (Allier) and, more recently, the Museum of the Resistance, Internment and Deportation , in Chamalières (Puy-de-Dôme), were incorporated into the heritage departments of municipalities, city councils and even the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regional authority. This dynamic reinforced the process of heritage designation of remembrance sites across the region.

     

    NEW FORMS OF REMEMBRANCE TOURISM AND TRAVEL

    Today, new forms of remembrance tourism are offered to the public, sometimes on their own initiative. These take the form of themed urban trails or “remembrance walks”, which connect museums and commemorative monuments to less developed sites: the camp of a unit of the Chantiers de la Jeunesse, a mountain barn that housed a camp for Compulsory Labour Service objectors, examples of postwar reconstruction, etc. These diverse experiences show a desire for direct contact with what is regarded as the truly authentic, a desire which prompts some to embark on the trail of remembrance.

     

    In addition to the scientific information given by guides and other mobile apps, these new forms of tourism offer an element of surprise, as experienced by the writer Antoine Choplin (À contre-courant, Éditions Paulsen, 2018), who, climbing towards the source of the Isère in the hills above Bourg-Saint-Maurice, was distracted by a curious building: “I rounded a bend and came upon a little stone fort dating from the Second World War. An old wooden sign hanging from the wall read: Châtelet Fort - 6th BCM. Alpine Maginot Line 1940. Two simple depictions of machine guns on stands framed the year. I am struck once more by how, even in the remotest of places, we are pursued by history. Wherever you are, its shine and stale odours linger on. It reappears in an inventive plurality of forms, with its meaning often made clear by first-hand accounts or memorials, or sometimes left more enigmatic.”

     

    These spontaneous or guided physical trails, in combination with virtual ones (accessible remotely via digital devices), are consistent with the new tourism practices of French and foreign visitors. They are also in keeping with the new forms of “remembrance tourism” being developed by the French Armed Forces and Economic Affairs ministries. In 2016, as part of their joint call for projects to encourage the development of innovative, digital resources for use in remembrance tourism in France, and with support from the Regional Directorate for Cultural Affairs (DRAC) and the regional authority, Réseau Mémorha came up with the Mémospace digital portal. At the heart of this first ever digital resource to catalogue the Second World War remembrance sites of an entire region is an interactive map, which makes it easy for users to plan both leisure and educational visits, as well as put together themed trails. Drawing on the advice of researchers, teachers, professional guides, remembrance organisations and museums, it is intended as a platform for the development, sharing and promotion of knowledge.

     

     

    The Museum of Mont Mouchet

     

    The Museum of Mont Mouchet. © Philippe Mesnard

     

    Located in the commune of Auvers, on the border of Cantal and Lozère, this major site for the Resistance in Auvergne is open to visitors from 1 May to 30 September. Renovated in 2009, it charts the history of the Resistance in Auvergne, and in particular in Margeride. It situates events in the national and international context of the time, and offers a comic-strip trail for younger visitors.

     


     

    The Senegalese Tata

     

    The Senegalese Tata National Cemetery © A. Karaghezian/ECPAD/Défense

     

    In the commune of Chasselay, on the very site where 51 Senegalese riflemen were massacred by the German army in the fighting of 19 and 20 June 1940, this cemetery, inaugurated in November 1942, contains the graves of 198 Senegalese riflemen who died for France. Every year, on 11 November, a ceremony is held on this unique site, built in the Sudanese style, bringing together the inhabitants of the village and the African diaspora of Lyon.

     


     

    Isère Museum of the Resistance and Deportation

     

    Isère Museum of the Resistance and Deportation. © Office de Tourisme Grenoble-Alpes métropole

     

    Built in the 1960s, on the initiative of teachers, Resistance members and deportees, this pioneering museum charts the history of the Second World War based on local events and the stories of Resistance fighters. Rooted in its era, it sheds light on the values of the Resistance and on human rights, through its events programme and educational outreach work. The museum is open every day (free admission).

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    Summary

    DATE: 2 December 2011

     

    PLACE: Lyon

     

    OUTCOME: Official founding of Réseau Mémorha

     

    OBJECT: Réseau Mémorha is a regional network of Second World War history museums, sites, institutions, cultural organisations and researchers into remembrance issues.

     

    Loire Memorial to the Resistance and Deportation.

    Loire Memorial to the Resistance and Deportation.

    © Mémorial de la Résistance et de la Déportation de la Loire

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    Bridget Gee

    Bridget Gee is head of external relations at the New Zealand embassy in Paris. In her role, she is in charge of planning Franco-New-Zealand commemorations, especially the 2018 inauguration of the French monument in Wellington.

    Pekahu National War Memorial Park, Wellington, New Zealand
    Pekahu National War Memorial Park, Wellington, New Zealand - © © Colin McLellan

    What role did New Zealanders play in the First World War and what impact did the conflict have on New Zealand?

     

    The First World War was a significant and traumatising event for New Zealand. The human cost of the war was substantial. In total, out of a population of just over a million inhabitants, over 100,000 New Zealand men served in the expeditionary force. Of those, 18,000 died and 41,000 were injured. The centenary of 1918 is first an occasion to pay tribute to these men.

     

    They were driven by a sense of duty, a spirit of justice and deep loyalty to the British Empire when they enlisted in the First World War after the conflict was declared in 1914.

     

    Furthermore, it was the unimaginable experiences they were exposed to during this global conflict that helped the New Zealanders to develop the qualities of endurance and courage, feelings of solidarity and fraternity and a strong sense of dedication. Some dates on which the worst battles in the war were waged have become key touchstones in New Zealand’s national memory, in particular the landings of 1915 in Gallipoli, Turkey, which ended in failure. Regarding the Western front, where New Zealand suffered three-quarters of its losses, we also remember the battles of the Somme, Passchendaele and Messines.

     

    How has 1918 and its memory played a part in forming New Zealands national identity?

     

    At the end of the war, New Zealand troops couldn’t return home right away because there was a shortage of ships and some were sent to take part in the occupation of Germany. This had a huge impact on soldiers and their families. Also, when New Zealand signed the Treaty of Versailles it was given a new spot on the international stage.

     

    The First World War had a profound and lasting impact on New Zealand, especially for those who had travelled enormous distances to take part in a war on the other side of the world, as well as those who stayed behind. The effects of the war can still be felt today, not only in our symbols and our commemorative monuments, but also in our politics and our values, in our international friendships and alliances, and in our national consciousness.

     

    Since 2014, the centenary programme of the First World War in New Zealand has encouraged people to explore the way in which these experiences of war have contributed to shaping our national identity. The commemorative actions that have taken place include erecting and renovating monuments, producing music and theatre shows, and devising numerous educational projects in schools.

     

    What will be the key commemorative events in your country in 2018?

     

    On 4 November 2018, New Zealand organised a national ceremony in France to mark the centenary of the liberation of Quesnoy. Just one week before the end of the war, in early November 1918, the New Zealand Division reclaimed the town from the Germans. Since then, Quesnoy and New Zealand have developed special bonds. The town has even named some of its streets and one of its schools after well-known figures and places in New Zealand. New Zealand will, of course, commemorate 11 November 1918, standing alongside France.

     

    Another symbol of the close relationship that unites our two nations and of our shared memory, the French remembrance monument at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington will be installed in 2018.  This monument was funded by the French Army Ministry through its Heritage, Remembrance and Archives Department (DPMA), which also contributed to its conception, especially by co-organising a French and New Zealand seminar and picking the winning design.

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    To Bleuets, citizens!

    The centenary of the year 1918 will give many the occasion to don the “Bleuet de France” which came about in the wake of the First World War. A symbol of remembrance and solidarity, the bleuet or cornflower still fulfils the same vocation today and provides moral support for the injured and victims of war.

    Le Pèlerin no. 3009, 25 November 1934
    Le Pèlerin no. 3009, 25 November 1934 - © © DR

    In 2015 and 2016, terrorist attacks struck France to its core. War, which had fled French shores many decades earlier, had again reared its ugly head in the everyday lives of French citizens. Millions of people gathered in the streets to stand together against fear and freedom-destroying fundamentalism, uniting to honour the dead and show their solidarity with traumatised survivors. Many gained a new perspective on the engagement of armies in theatres of overseas operations.

     

    This humanist momentum was not unlike that which energised the nation in the weeks and months following the Great War when hundreds of thousands of young injured and mutilated men were returning home to rebuild their lives and integrate back into society. What this unprecedented enterprise needed was funds in addition to state aid. The seed of an idea began to grow in the minds of two nurses at the Invalides hospital: set up a factory where convalescing soldiers could manufacture small fabric cornflowers to be sold for a profit that would build up a charity fund. A national symbol was born! The cornflower is associated with many references. During the war, young recruits, wearing a new uniform in sky blue, were affectionately known as ‘Bleuets’ (cornflowers) by their elders. Cornflowers and poppies were also the only blooms to grow in the churned-up earth following the fighting, evoking the force of life. The poppy became the symbol of remembrance in Britain and Commonwealth nations. It continues to enjoy widespread appeal today.

     

    From 1934, the government made the sale of cornflowers official each 11 November and manufacturing facilities cropped up all over France. In 1957, a new collection was authorised on 8 May with profits donated to support troops in the Second World War.

     

    What happened to the ‘Bleuet de France’? Threatened with extinction, the cornflower trademark was granted in 1991 to the French national bureau of former service people and victims of war (ONACVG), a public institution attached to the French Army Ministry. The collection campaigns, led with the support of veterans, armies, local authorities and volunteers from all backgrounds raise just over a million euros each year.

     

    Since 2012, French professional sport has backed this charitable initiative: Stade Rennais football club was the first to adopt the bleuet in official matches. For the occasion of the centenary of the Great War, the French rugby and football teams, as well as the League 1 and 2 teams, became ambassadors of the iconic blue flower. Following the example of the French President, a number of elected officials and senior members of the military authorities wear the bleuet de France at remembrance ceremonies. Commendable actions that are also broadcast widely by the media.

     

    Manufactured by disabled worked, the bleuets are sold to “help those still with us”, soldiers from today and yesterday, the injured, widows, wards of the nation, victims of war and acts of terrorism. A proportion of the donations collected also fund remembrance actions, in particular those aimed at schools.

     

    This year, in memory of the infantrymen, and in solidarity with those who served and serve for France at the risk of their life and those taken from us forever by war or terrorism, wearing the bleuet is a powerful, universal and intergenerational act of citizenship.

    Antoine Rodriguez - Department manager at the ONACVG of Ille-et-Vilaine/ Alexandre Fons - Bleuet de France Project Leader

    For further information

    bleuet-de-france@onacvg.fr

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    2018: the Year of Clemenceau

    Last 11 November, the French president paid tribute to Georges Clemenceau while visiting the former prime minister’s Parisian apartment that is now a museum. The perfect occasion to declare that 2018 would be the “Year of Clemenceau”.

    The President of the French Republic accompanied by Jean-Noël Jeanneney, inaugurating the new Clemenceau Museum in Paris, 11 November 2017
    The President of the French Republic accompanied by Jean-Noël Jeanneney, inaugurating the new Clemenceau Museum in Paris, 11 November 2017 - © © Lentignac / Musée Clemenceau

    In Paris, at the Champs-Élysées roundabout, the statues of France’s two war leaders sit one across from the other. At the metro exit stands the imposing statue of General de Gaulle, while on the other side of the avenue, the statue of Georges Clemenceau rises tall. Erected in 1932, it features the Father of Victory in mid-stride wearing a heavy coat and gaiters, his scarf blowing in the wind, as he was seen when visiting the poilus, a term of endearment (literally ‘the hairy ones’) for the French infantrymen in the war. Today, this image is without a doubt the most enduring in the memory of French citizens.

     

    In 2018, it will be revived following the French President’s decision to pay homage, as one strand of the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War, to the victor Georges Clemenceau, the founder of the Third Republic who, appointed President of the Council by Poincaré in November 1917, pledged to "conquer or die". Despite the validity of his choice, it would be reductive to remember Clemenceau for nothing but his warrior image and to sum up his career as one led exclusively by an aggressive and warmongering strategy.

     

    “WE WANT PEACE”

     

    In 1917, Georges Clemenceau and his government declared themselves present to “work”, to work for a “war of salvation” and strive for peace. Consequently, on 20 November 1917, in his ministerial declaration to the Chamber of Deputies, the Tiger, as he was also known, pledged to lead “an integral war” prompted by his desire to bring an end to the deadly conflict as soon as possible: “We want peace; we would sacrifice everything to obtain it in the conditions of justice and beauty that are the worthy values of our country.” There are several explanations why Clemenceau was so fiercely committed to ending the war. First and foremost was his visceral aversion to extreme violence, a revulsion largely fuelled by his visits to the front from September 1915 in his capacity as President of the Senate Army Commission.

     

    Indeed, his first visit, in Champagne, was not only for institutional purposes. From Suippes to Souain, his tour gave him the chance to meet these men “in the trenches who are moreover in a pitiful state as a consequence of the accumulation of mud and debris of all sorts, [these] men who display the most tranquil courage”, as he expressed before the Senate Army Commission on 30 September 1915.

     

    This initial contact with the field was also an occasion to feel closer to his beloved younger brother Albert for whom he was extremely worried and regretful that he was unable to take his place on the battlefield. Not to mention that this initial visit, the first of many, etched forever in his mind the memory of Sergeant Poissonnier who “has other things to do than keep us in his memory, as anxious for his future as he is” but who “he [Clemenceau] will never forget”. This was how he described Sergeant Poissonnier in the French daily LHomme enchaîné on 6 October 1915. The admiration and sincere affection the President of the Council felt for the troops was the constant driving force of his commitment to achieving peace. Once very much shocked by a visit to the "smoking ruins" of 1870 in the company of his friend Scheurer-Kestner, he was profoundly convinced of the urgent need to stop the war as swiftly as possible if it could not be avoided all together. This horror of bloodshed came from experience and philosophy on the existence of the “great man".

     

    A FLAMBOYANT AND COMPLEX PERSONALITY

     

    To proclaim 2018 as the Year of Clemenceau is not merely an opportunity to pay tribute to the intelligence and energy of a man of state but also to delve deeper into this flamboyant, complex and multi-faceted personality. To celebrate the ‘Father of Victory’ is to follow an infinite number of paths depending on one’s particular interests, desires and whim.

     

    Born in Vendée, sent up to the capital to finish his studies in medicine, imprisoned in 1870 in a besieged Paris, mayor of his commune, doctor to the poor in Montmartre, member of parliament, senator, Dreyfusard, writer, friend to artists such as Monet, minister of the interior and later President of the Council and keen traveller, Georges Clemenceau was a constant champion of action and ideals. Elusive and contradictory, he was not always an easy man to fathom. This is why the Centenary Mission, the ministries of culture and the army (the Heritage, Remembrance and Archives Department) and sites of remembrance chose the year 2018 to organise or support a series of events.

     

    CLEMENCEAU SEASON

     

    Since January 2018, a capsule website has posted a detailed calendar of 1918, documents and articles, a rich collection of images, and coverage of the initiatives started by the French Presidential office. Several archive documents stored at the defence department’s history section and assembled by General Mordacq, the head of Clemenceau’s war cabinet, are currently being digitised. A total of 10,000 individual records.

     

    In Paris, the Musée Clemenceau will be opening its doors to the public. In a gallery refurbished with funding from the French Army Ministry’s Heritage, Remembrance and Archives Department, visitors will get to see not only the different faces and numerous combats of the “warrior republican” but also the vast culture and tenderness of this private man in his apartment which is in the same condition as when he died on 24 November 1929. Exhibitions and guided tours will be organised through the year.

     

    In Mouilleron-en-Pareds, the house of his birth has been turned into a national museum. A highlight in Vendée’s cultural calendar, its official inauguration took place in June 2018. A house and museum, it “has preserved all the emotion of a place of remembrance and will present the career of this man of ideas who made such an impression on the history of France through his mind and action” as head curator Marie-Hélène Joly likes to describe him. A few kilometres from there, in Saint-Vincent-sur-Jard, "La Bicoque", Clemenceau’s cherished retirement home, will also honour, through talks and other events, the host who entertained at his table a great many friends and who, in the silence and solitude of the night, used to write literature and love letters looking out at sea.

     

    All of this will help us better understand the meaning of the oath to Clemenceau addressed by General de Gaulle on the BBC on 11 November 1941. Indeed, when the general uttered the unforgettable words: “From the depth of your Vendéen tomb, today 11 November, Clemenceau, you do not sleep!”, the war chief, as he was then, knew that the “old Tiger” could still inspire France for the immediate victory and the century to come.  An exhibition at the Pantheon in November 2018 will show how true this was.

    Sylvie Brodziak - HDR Professor of French Literature and the History of Ideas, University of Paris Seine-Cergy-Pontoise

    For further information

    www.clemenceau2018.fr

    www.musee-clemenceau.fr

     

    Bibliography

    Clemenceau, Sylvie Brodziak, Presses universitaires de Vincennes, 2015.

    Clemenceau au front, Samuël Tomei, Editions Pierre de Taillac/Ministère de la Défense, 2015.

    Dictionnaire Clemenceau, Sylvie Brodziak and Samuel Tomei (dir.), prefaced by Jean-Noël Jeanneney, Bouquins collection, Robert Laffont, 2017.

     

    Remembrance sites

    Musée Clemenceau

    Musée National Clemenceau-de Lattre

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    1918, exiting from the war

    The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the catalyst for a complex period during which the withdrawal of four million soldiers was enacted. The first phase consisted of demobilising the troops, in other words organise their repatriation home. For many, above all soldiers sent from the colonies, demobilisation did not take place until late in 1919.

    Return of demobilised troops at Gare de l’Est, 1 February 1919. Photograph published in the Excelsior daily magazine on Sunday 2 February 1919
    Return of demobilised troops at Gare de l’Est, 1 February 1919. Photograph published in the Excelsior daily magazine on Sunday 2 February 1919 - © © Excelsior-L'Équipe/Roger-Viollet

    The period of demobilisation that came in the wake of the First World War was exceptional not only because it was on a scale never seen before but also owing to the diverse backgrounds of those affected, a mixture of those born and bred in mainland France, others from overseas France, i.e. the former colonies, but also men and women recruited to work for the war effort.

     

    From the moment the armistice was declared, four million mobilised troops in the French army (including around 300,000 soldiers from the former colonies) were given the prospect of returning home, an unquestionable source of joy for soldiers and their families alike. The government was well aware of their hopes. Yet it also had a duty to maintain a strong army until the signing of the final peace treaty imposed on a defeated Germany, an act that did not happen until 28 June 1919 in the form of the Treaty of Versailles. Caution was also paramount due to other international concerns going on at that time (in central and eastern Europe, Russia and the Levant).

     

    ORGANISATION OF THE DEMOBILISATION

     

    The act of sending the soldiers back to civilian life was carried out in stages with priority afforded to the most senior. From late November, the oldest men (between 49 and 51) were permitted to go home. This was followed by the return of men aged 32 to 48 between December and April. Circumstances changed when the Allied leaders became alarmed at Germany’s reticence to accept the terms of the armistice, which it deemed too harsh, and started to consider military intervention with the explicit intention of forcing the defeated nation into submission.

     

    The demobilisation process was therefore put on hold. The classes comprising the active reserve forces, i.e. soldiers under 32, were kept in service until July 1919. While more than a million soldiers were demobilised by this time, the French army still had a further 2.5 million men in its troops compared to just over four million on 11 November 1918.  Demobilisation was then resumed and carried out in four stages through to September. It wasn’t until 14 October 1919 that the general decree of demobilisation was signed, cancelling out the sadly famous mobilisation decree of 1 August 1914. The return of those originating from the colonies was carried out along the same lines. However, for many of them who enlisted for the duration of the war, their contracts stipulated that demobilisation was not an option until six months from the end of hostilities, which meant the month of May 1919 at the earliest, taking the armistice as the base date. In September 1919, about 15,000 indigenous troops remained in France including 13,000 Indochinese soldiers, above all Vietnamese, nurses and drivers for the most part. They returned to their native countries between September and November.

     

    The staggered return was rarely appreciated by those affected, even if it did give some of them the chance to attend the parade on 14 July 1919 through the Arc de Triomphe. It brought disarray to the formation of the units which had to be reorganised to factor in the demobilised troops. Furthermore, there was a lapse in discipline with soldiers and citizens feeling that the end of the German threat no longer justified the application of rules and regulations to which the large majority were subjected in silent revolt and which they strongly resented.  For the demobilised, quitting the army brought its own set of problems. The procedure itself was simple: having a medical inspection, updating one’s military papers, then being sent to the demobilisation centre which was the holding place for the regiment to which each demobilised soldier belonged. But there was frequent chaos, especially as concerned the trains: the soldiers, to protest against the slow convoys and the uncomfortable carriages, frequently smashed windows and doors.  Demonstrations were held by the Senegalese riflemen from the Saint-Raphaël Camp who, during a review, jostled a general and noisily demanded their return. When you factor in the lack of marine transportation, the repatriation of overseas soldiers was even further problematic.

     

    QUITTING THE ARMY, RETURNING HOME

     

    For the first to leave, returning home meant facing disappointment.  The demobilised men were treated quite indifferently by the authorities and there was no ceremony of any sort welcoming them back. To replace the clothes left behind in the barracks, abandoned or unwearable, they received nothing but an ill fitted suit (called an Abrami after the Under-Secretary of State for War Léon Abrami) or, if they refused it, the paltry sum of 52 francs, equivalent to about 50 euros in today’s money.  They were even summoned by the tax office to pay their back taxes, since the moratorium was lifted at the end of the hostilities. It was only in March 1919 that more comprehensive measures were introduced to compensate for the earlier gaffes: the tax moratorium was reinstated; a demobilisation bonus was paid, calculated on a fairer basis (250 francs plus 20 francs for each month stationed on the front), and a law on pensions paid to war invalids or families of men killed in action was passed. The welcome home was also changed.

     

    From the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the regiments who returned to their home town were now celebrated: festivities commenced with a parade of the troops, cheered on by crowds of compatriots, in streets bedecked in decorations and foliage. The celebrations were especially emotional for many of them in the procession who, despite mixing with other regiments during the course of the conflict, were still sons of the soil. The parade was sometimes, though not always, followed by various other festivities, including concerts, balls, fireworks or torch-lit processions. Even when the festivities took place, nothing could hide the obvious grief that would ensue for years to come for the walking wounded and the widows and families whose black mourning wear was a constant reminder of all those who would never return home.

     

    The demobilised troops also had to make huge efforts to readapt. They had lived, for several years, five in some cases, amongst their fellow troops, far away from home, and cut off from civilian life with the exception of rare periods of leave. They first had to find a job, which was not always easy. Despite the passing of a law in 1918 obliging business owners to rehire their former workers or employees, not all of these owners were still in business or in a position to take on staff. They were also forced to carry out a series of formalities, which were time-consuming and often humiliating, to obtain the benefits to which they were, by rights, entitled. But finding work was not their only problem. The liberated man, whose daily routine up until that point had been governed by the army, had forgotten how to live an ordinary life, meet their individual needs and know how to feed and dress themselves. More especially, family life had to be reorganised, with wives who, whether they liked it or not, had taken on the responsibilities in their capacity as the new head of the household and children who had lost many years with their father, if they had ever known him at all. Couples separated and divorces were more common than before the war.

     

    The demobilised also felt that they had nobody with whom to share their personal experiences since the people they’d left behind could not even begin to imagine the suffering, fears and solidarity they had shared with their brothers in arms. A portion of the six and a half million veterans (about one adult male in two) did find an association in which they could express their sense solidarity and grievances in French society. Their main state of mind was a feeling of pride of surviving such an ordeal and clinging to their positions, as they did in Verdun, to stop masses of German troops spilling across the country. They felt infinitely more a sense of satisfaction from fulfilling their duty than the exhilaration of the daring exploit of war, even if not everyone was entirely indifferent to it. The further the war receded into the past, the stronger the sense of peaceful, and even pacifist, patriotism grew in the majority of the troops, marked above all by a condemnation of the war and a rejection of anything that might facilitate it, most notably militarism, the excitement of daring heroism and even, in some extreme cases, the honour of choosing death over servitude.

     

    WHAT FUTURE FOR THE OTHERS “MOBILISED” FOR WAR?

     

    Other categories of soldier were also affected by the end of the war. French prisoners, whose number is estimated in the region of 500,000, were able to leave their camp as soon as the armistice was signed. Many took the initiative to return home by their own means, not without difficulty. The French authorities took responsibility for the repatriation of all others. It took two months, from mid-November 1918 to mid-January 1919, to complete the majority of returns. Those that did return had to deal with the indifferent attitude of the authorities and public opinion, as if these veterans were somehow tainted with dishonour when most of them had no reason to shoulder any blame, The law also assimilated them with the other veterans for the compensation owed to them.

     

    Just as discreet, perhaps understandably so, was the demobilisation of men from Alsace and Lorraine from the territories annexed to the Reich since 1871, who had served in the imperial army (250,000 of them during the war). In an attempt to counter the lack of understanding and the injustices born of their situation as Frenchmen having served in an enemy army, a first association was set up in 1920 under the patronage of the great patriotic writer Maurice Barrès, and explicitly named ‘malgré-nous’ (against our will), which was once again used following the even more tragic circumstances that unfolded during the Second World War.

     

    Further neglected still was the demobilisation of a small number of women, conscripted into the war to carry out work until then largely attributed to men in industry and services. They were forced to quit their jobs and return to being housewives or domestic workers under pressure from the authorities (the minister of armaments Louis Loucheur issued a circular to this effect on 13 November 1918). The transfer of these women was done with little noise and left few traces behind.

     

    TO CHALLENGE OR MAINTAIN THE COLONIAL ORDER?

     

    The return of demobilised troops from the colonies was often marked by some form of ceremonious wecome. In a speech delivered in Algiers, General Nivelle, who had come to welcome the riflemen and Zouaves returning to their garrisons, praised "their heroism, their spirit of sacrifice and their unconquerable faith, in Marne, Ypres, on the Somme, in Aisnes, in Verdun, and in Château-Thierry, in Champagne". He reminded them that he had always stationed them at posts of honour. This greeting was addressed above all, admittedly, to only the first repatriated contingents while those that followed were welcomed with far greater indifference. In certain cases, the authorities seemed to take an interest in planning the readaptation of troops. One brochure handed out to demobilised troops from Indochina explained the formal procedures to follow to ensure they received the benefits to which they were entitled. They were given a medical inspection and any injured or sick were treated in medical facilities.

     

    This outpouring of solicitude did not mean a total disregard of surveillance. In Indochina, one regiment of repatriates, established in September 1917, was instructed to centralise information on the indigenous troops in mainland France, so as to report any potential problems, but also any sign of divergences in individual behaviour, which was then passed on to the local security services. In some regions, incidents occurred in response to returning troops. In Djibouti, in the spring of 1919, demobilised troops, some of whom earned a name for themselves in battle (in particular during the liberation of Douaumont in October 1916) mutinied. Some who returned to their camps set about looting the place. Incidents broke out in town. Other similar disturbances happened in French West Africa (AOF), especially in Senegal and Guinea. None of these incidents deteriorated into serious trouble. Workers recruited in the colonies to support the war effort (whose number is estimated at 200,000) also returned to their home country in their masses. The authorities had no desire to keep them in France. They feared these workers had been corrupted by revolutionary ideas which seemed to be gaining ground amongst the French proletariat. They felt that sending them back was an opportunity to give popularity-seeking satisfaction to popular discontent, at a time when troops returning from the front were still seeking employment. Managers in the colonies wanted to reinstate all of the “indigenous” manpower, vital for ensuring the economic recovery in overseas France while receiving wages pushed down to the lowest level by pressure from the returnees. To meet the needs for rebuilding France, there was a general preference for calling on people originating from Europe, deemed more efficient and more accepting by the trade unions owing to their working class tradition. A small number of colonial and Chinese workers were employed to work on the first sites established to clear rubble from the front, in conditions that were often punishing and dangerous. The return journey of demobilised troops was in principle paid by the state, but the administration was in no rush to honour its obligations. The last Vietnamese returnees did not make it home until July 1920.

     

    As their comrades in mainland France, veterans, be they European or indigenous, expressed little the realities of war. Some tended to attribute the attitude of these troops to a “fatalism” that rendered them indifferent to the most momentous events and not to the need to forget that was very common amongst veterans. Back home, these same indigenous citizens were just as ready to challenge the pre-war order and the order imposed by the colonial authorities not to mention the order of traditional societies. They were not prepared to submit to their civic leaders or their elders.

     

    They relied on their status as veterans in the French army to try to avoid the orders imposed by the administration. In AOF, business owners criticised the arrogant attitude of demobilised troops and accused them of picking up lazy habits while in service that was driving them to delinquency. However, many were enjoying, amidst the general population, the consideration shown to them owing to their apparent command of “white manners”: they smoked tobacco, knew a smattering of French and could show official “papers”. Their military actions were admired in a society in which the combatant was held in high esteem. Their demobilisation bonus, paid in one go and often spent on gifts, also gave them, at least in the beginning, a certain prestige in parts of the country forced into a frugal existence.

     

    Furthermore, some repatriates acquired from their time in Europe a new political conscience and new ideas for action. One former soldier, Dorothée Lima, founded in 1920 the first newspaper in Dahomey, La Voix du Dahomey. One returnee worker from France, Tôn Duc Thang, who may have participated in the Black Sea mutinies, created the first trade union in Saigon. For others, a spell in the army confirmed a political vocation, such as Jean Ralaimongo, a teacher who was voluntarily conscripted at the age of 32 and went on to become one of the first leaders of the Madagascan emancipation movement, or accountant Galandou Diouf who soon became the rival of Senegalese political leader Blaise Diagne.  We might wonder if this type of behaviour was frequent amongst the former combatants. In fact, most of them returned home with a desire to enjoy a peaceful life and the benefits extended to them by the government and the respect of their loved ones.

     

    Veterans and former soldiers of European origin, especially the French in Algeria, had a different attitude. While their mentality might seem not so dissimilar to their compatriots in mainland France, the colonial context brought a slight nuance to their patriotism. Their war experience, the brotherhood of arms that forged links between many of them and indigenous soldiers, the countless examples of heroism and devotion shown by these troops, seemed to plead in favour of maintaining a colonial order that produced impeccable conduct. Their very positive opinion on their former comrades in battle took scant consideration of the often tough living conditions the latter would return to in civilian life or their aspirations to escape the condition of “subjects”. While feeling more affection and respect towards the indigenous troops than in the past, those who were yet to be known as the “Pieds noirs” were scarcely more prepared to listen to the demands of their representatives. These exaggeratedly optimistic sentiments were further reinforced by the exemplary participation of the soldiers from the colonies during the Second World War.

     

    Overall, demobilisation might appear to have been successful: the soldiers made a seamless integration into civilian life. Veterans in mainland France continued to express their loyalty to the Republic, which seemed to have come out of the war stronger. But their expectations were commensurate with the sacrifices they had made: a happier life, a more attentive government. As for the men enlisted from the colonies, the pride of having been good soldiers nurtured a claim for dignity that would fuel aspirations of independence.

     

    Jacques Frémeaux - Professor emeritus at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris-IV), member of the French Overseas Scientific Academy and member emeritus of the Institut Universitaire de France.

    For further information

    Bibliography

    Les colonies dans la Grande Guerre : combats et épreuves des peuples d’outre-mer, Jacques Frémeaux, Editions 14-18, 2006.

     

    Photo gallery (ECPAD)

    The armistice of 1918 in the ECPAD archives

    1919: The days after war and the victory parade

     

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    1919: The days after war and the victory parade

    Victory Celebrations, 14 July 1919, in Paris. 1/3

    Victory Celebrations, 14 July 1919, in Paris. 2/3

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    Help from the colonies in France

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    Summary

    DATE: 11 November 1918

    PLACE: Clairière de Rethondes, in the forest of Compiègne

    OUTCOME: The signing of the Armistice bringing the fighting of the First World War to an end

    PARTICIPATING NATIONS: France, Britain and Germany

    A demobilised soldier trying on the national suit, nicknamed the

    A demobilised soldier trying on the national suit, nicknamed the "Abrami", Paris, École militaire, 13 February 1919.

    © © Joly/ECPAD/Défense
    A demobilised soldier is given a medical inspection, Paris, École militaire, 13 February, 1919

    A demobilised soldier is given a medical inspection, Paris, École militaire, 13 February, 1919

    © © Joly/ECPAD/Défense
    Spahis in parade at the victory celebration in Paris, 14 July 1919

    Spahis in parade at the victory celebration in Paris, 14 July 1919

    © © Albert Harlingue/Roger-Viollet
    French prisoners repatriated from Germany, November 1918

    French prisoners repatriated from Germany, November 1918

    © © Maurice-Louis Branger/Roger-Viollet
    Chinese workers in a munitions factory, Lyon region, September 1916.

    Chinese workers in a munitions factory, Lyon region, September 1916.

    © © Piston/Excelsior-L’Équipe/Roger-Viollet
    French troops occupying Germany’s chemical warfare centre: outposts at the exit from the bridge outside Mannheim, March 1919. Photograph published in the Excelsior daily magazine on Sunday 5 March 1919.

    French troops occupying Germany’s chemical warfare centre: outposts at the exit from the bridge outside Mannheim, March 1919. Photograph published in the Excelsior daily magazine on Sunday 5 March 1919.

    © © Excelsior-L’Équipe/Roger-Viollet

    Timeline

    11 November 1918 - 10 August 1920: The aftermath of the war

    November 1918

    11 November: Armistice signed at Rethondes, in the forest of Compiègne, putting an end to the hostilities of the First World War on the Western Front for a period of 36 days.

    20 November: In France, Georges Clemenceau becomes Minister of War.

    December 1918

    9 December: Armistice of Focşani between the Central Powers and Romania.

    13 December: Prolongation of the armistice by the Allies.

    15 December: Russo-German armistice of Brest-Litovsk.

    January 1919

    1 January: Independence of Byelorussia, which becomes a Soviet Socialist Republic.

    5 January: Vilnius is taken by the Red Army.

    5-16 January: Spartacist Uprising crushed in Berlin (execution of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg on the 15th).

    16 December: Further prolongation of the armistice by the Allies.

    17 January: Paul Deschanel is elected French President.

    18 January: The Paris Peace Conference opens at the Quai d’Orsay, chaired by Georges Clemenceau.

    19 January: A constituent assembly is elected in Germany.

    21 June: Start of the Irish War of Independence.

    26 January: General election in Poland.

    February 1919

    5 February: Kiev is recaptured by the Bolsheviks.

    11 February: Friedrich Ebert is elected German President by the Weimar National Assembly.

    14 February: Battle of Bereza Kartuska, in Belarus, marks the start of the Polish-Soviet War.

    16 February: Final prolongation of the armistice by the Allies before the signing of the peace treaty.

    27 February: Proclamation of the Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

    March 1919

    2 March: The Third International is founded in Moscow.

    3 March: General strike in Germany.

    4-13 March: General strike put down in Berlin.

    10 March: Proclamation of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

    21 March: Proclamation of the Republic of Councils in Hungary, or Hungarian Soviet Republic.

    22 March: In France, a law is passed introducing demobilisation benefit.

    23 March: In Milan, the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Leagues) are founded by Benito Mussolini.

    25 March: France adopts collective employment agreements.

    29 March: In France, Raoul Villain, Jean Jaurès’s murderer, is acquitted.

    31 March: France passes a law introducing compensation for veterans and victims of war.

    April 1919

    2-6 April: French troops are evacuated from the port of Odessa.

    7 April: Attempted Communist revolution in Bavaria.

    15-16 April: Start of the Hungarian-Romanian War.

    17 April: France passes a law giving individuals the right to compensation for damage caused to property during the war.

    19 April: France adopts a charter for war victims.

    19-21 April: Mutiny of French seamen in the Black Sea fleet.

    21 April: Polish troops enter Vilnius. End of the Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

    23 April: In France, a law is passed introducing an eight-hour day and 48-hour working week. Army and paramilitaries enter Bavaria to crush the uprising.

    May 1919

    1 May: Workers demonstrate in Paris. Czech offensive in Hungary.

    1-8 May: Munich is taken by the army and paramilitaries. End of the Bavarian Soviet Republic.

    7 May: As part of the Treaty of Versailles, a Franco-Anglo-American pact is signed to guard against German aggression.

    12 May: The German national constituent assembly rejects the proposed treaty submitted to the German delegation.

    21 May: The French Chamber of Deputies votes a bill giving women the right to vote; it is rejected by the Senate.

    June 1919

    10-13 June: French metalworkers go on strike.

    12-13 June: Hungarian Communist Party congress.

    16 June: The Allies present Germany with an ultimatum. The Slovak Republic of Councils is proclaimed.

    19-23 June: Decisive victory for Estonia and Latvia over the pro-German Baltic government at the Battle of Wenden.

    22-23 June: The Treaty of Versailles is accepted by the Weimar National Assembly.

    24 June: France passes a law governing the compensation to be awarded to civilian victims of the war. Attempted counter-revolutionary putsch in Budapest fails.

    25 June: Transport strike in Paris.

    28 June: The Treaty of Versailles is signed with Germany, including in its preamble the Covenant of the League of Nations.

    July 1919

    2 July-September: Rail workers strike in Portugal.

    7 July: The Czech army puts an end to the Slovak Republic of Councils.

    11 July: Eastern Galicia a Polish protectorate after the Paris Conference.

    14 July: Victory parade in the Champs-Élysées.

    20 July: Hungarian Red Army offensive against Romania (Red Army defeated on the 24th).

    31 July: The French General Employers Confederation is founded.

    August 1919

    1 August: Government of the Republic of Councils in Hungary resigns and a socialist government is formed.

    3 August: Budapest is occupied by Romanian troops.

    6 August: The Republic of Councils in Hungary falls and a counter-revolutionary government is formed. Start of the White Terror in Hungary (1919-1920).

    8 August: Minsk falls into Polish hands.

    11 August: Promulgation of the Weimar Constitution at Schwarzburg.

    14 August: Promulgation of the Bamberg Constitution by Bavaria.

    16-17 August: Start of the uprising of the Polish people against the German authorities in Upper Silesia.

    19 August: A state of siege is proclaimed in Upper Silesia.

    20 August: Start of the Battle of Tobolsk-Petropavlovsk between the Red and White armies in Siberia.

    23-28 August: Sejny Uprising; withdrawal of Lithuanian troops.

    24 August: The uprising in Upper Silesia is put down by paramilitaries.

    Start of the peasant movements in Italy (land occupation).

    September 1919

    7 and 12 September: Decree-laws introducing agrarian reform in Romania.

    10 September: Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye with Austria.

    12 September: Adolf Hitler speaks at a meeting of the German Workers’ Party at a bierkeller in Munich.

    28 September: Polish-Soviet War; start of the Battle of Daugavpils.

    October 1919

    9 October: First conference of the Fasci di Combattimento, in Florence.

    10 October: Economic blockade of Soviet Russia by the Allied Supreme Council.

    14 October: In France, a decree of general demobilisation annuls the decree of mobilisation of 1 August 1914.

    26 October: The Red Army defeats the White Army in Siberia after the Battle of Tobolsk-Petropavlovsk.

    November 1919

    2 November: In France, on the first All Souls’ Day since the return of peace, ceremonies are held at cemeteries all along the front. The French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC) is founded.

    11 November: First day to commemorate the 1918 armistice, with a single ceremony being held in the chapel of Les Invalides, attended by Marshal Foch.

    16 November: In France, the Bloc National wins a majority in the general election, marking the start of the “horizon-blue chamber” (in reference to the large number of WWI veterans who were elected).

    20 November: The US senate refuses to ratify the treaties, leading to the United States’ absence from the League of Nations.

    22 November: Károly Huszár comes to power in Hungary.

    27 November: Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria.

    December 1919

    8 December: The Curzon Line is proposed by the Allied Supreme Council as the border between Poland and Lithuania, with the city of Vilnius ascribed to Lithuania. The Curzon Line is rejected by the Poles, who advance as far as Kiev.

    9 December: The Kingdom of Romania signs a minority treaty in Paris, at the close of the Paris Peace Conference.

    12 December: The Red Army recaptures Kharkov from the nationalists, followed by Kiev on the 16th, then takes Ekaterinoslav and occupies the whole of southern Ukraine.

    January 1920

    5 January: The Red Army is driven out of Daugavpils by Polish-Latvian troops.

    10 January: Entry into force of the Treaty of Versailles.

    17 January: Paul Deschanel succeeds Raymond Poincaré as French President.

    18 January: In France, Georges Clemenceau resigns as prime minister after being defeated in the presidential election.

    20 January: In France, Alexandre Millerand becomes prime minister; war pensions ministry created, with André Maginot as minister.

    24 January: In France, the Reparations Commission is established.

    February 1920

    18 February: Germany is restricted to a standing army of 100 000 men by the Supreme Council.

    23 February: In France, Raymond Poincaré is appointed chairman of the Reparations Commission.

    25-29 February: 17th national conference of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO) is held in Strasbourg.

    February-May: In France, waves of strikes by the miners and railway workers.

    May 1920

    24-25 May: Second conference of the Fasci de Combattimento is held in Milan.

    June 1920

    4 June : Treaty of Trianon with Hungary.

    In Italy, revolt of the bersaglieri (light infantry unit).

    July 1920

    5-16 July: Spa Conference on war reparations.

    August 1920

    10 August: Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey.

    Galeries photos

    La ligne de front, Belgique 1914-1918
    La ligne de front, Belgique 1914-1918 - © SGA/COM
    Les cimetières militaires
    Les cimetières militaires - © SGA/DPMA
    Le front belge
    Le front belge - © SGA/DPMA
    Autour des cimetières militaires
    Autour des cimetières militaires - © SGA/COM
    La ligne de front, Belgique 1914-1918 Les cimetières militaires Le front belge Autour des cimetières militaires
    Review January/February 2018 n°261 Review January/February 2018 n°261

    The file

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