The “Gueules Cassées” cemetery in Cadillac
Veterans’ section from afar. Source: M. Bajolle
The grounds of the psychiatric hospital in Cadillac received 98 veterans with facial and brain injuries; its old cemetery keeps their memory alive.
The grounds of the psychiatric hospital in Cadillac-sur-Garonne, a bastide founded in the 13th century with the support of the King of England, received 98 World War One veterans with facial and brain injuries.
Its old cemetery keeps their memory alive... Among the belligerent countries involved in WWI, France and Germany mobilised the largest number of men of fighting age: 80% of all men between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine.
Once the armistice had been signed, alongside the families of the 1,375,800 dead and missing, the country had to take care of 4,266,000 injured veterans, of which there were ten to fifteen thousand with facial injuries, called “Gueules Cassées”, a term that originated with Colonel Yves Picot, founder of the Union des Blessés de la Face (Union of Facial Injury Victims). Victims of the brutality of the first industrial conflict, during which 70% of injuries were caused by incessant artillery fire, these men were desocialised by the war. They had to re-learn civilian life, deal with their handicaps, and live under the eyes of a nation embarrassed by these heroes who did not “Die for France”, a reflection of the country’s condition at the end of the war.
To the north-east of the bastide of Cadillac, in the Gironde department, the “brain injuries” section at the psychiatric hospital contains the graves of 98 injured veterans who came back from the front mentally ruined and were put here to live out the rest their lives, as at the establishment in Moussy-le-Vieux (Seine-et-Marne) and Coudon (Var).
These men were doubly forgotten after their deaths because, as they were patients at the psychiatric hospital, their deaths were not recorded by a municipal officer. Their tombs and their identification markers, many of which have fallen off, are now anonymous.
Two plaques were presented, however, in 1937 and 1956 by veterans from the Gironde department at the initiative of the Saint-Blaise Association in Cadillac, honouring “the memory of their comrades, victims of brain injuries in the War of 1914-1918”.