Memorial dedicated to Joost van Vollenhoven
Memorial dedicated to Joost van Vollenhoven. Source: J.P. le Padellec
This memorial is located on departmental highway No. 2 (between Villers-Cotterêts and Longpont). It pays tribute to Captain van Vollenhoven of the Colonial Infantry Regiment of Morocco, who died on 20 July 1918 following a head injury from a machine gun in front of Mont-Ramboeuf Farm, near Parcy-Tigny, during the offensive by General Mangin’s 10th Army.
Born in Rotterdam on 21 July 1877 to a prominent old Dutch family, Joost van Vollenhoven spent most of his childhood in Algeria, where his parents had moved and worked as merchants.
After earning a law degree and being naturalised French on 4 February 1899, he was admitted to the Colonial School that year. He completed the eight first years of his career in major political, administrative and diplomatic missions, first at the Ministry of Colonies, then in French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa, then once again in Paris. He received the Legion of Honour in a civilian capacity in 1912 and, at the age of 35, was named Governor of the Colonies and Secretary General of the Indochinese Federation before taking on the functions of interim Governor General when war was declared in 1914.
He was sent to the front in April 1915, at his own request, with the rank of Colonial Infantry Sergeant assigned to the Colonial Infantry Regiment of Morocco. He was named second lieutenant on 21 May.
Injured and with several commendations, he finally accepted the position of Governor General in Dakar in May 1917, a position from which he resigned eight months later in disagreement with the recruitment policy for African soldiers. Back on the front, he was once again commended in April 1918 and promoted Captain of the R.I.C.M. On 19 July 1918 he received a head injury near the village of Parcy-Tigny during an offensive by General Mangin’s 10th Army, engaged in the forest of Villers-Cotterêts since the 18th.
Joost van Vollenhoven died in the morning of 20 July. He was buried in the forest of Villers-Cotterêts, nearly the village of Longpont.
His commendation in the Army Order of 28 July 1918 is inscribed on Van Vollenhoven’s mausoleum: “An officer of ancient valour and virtue, the incarnation of the most admirable and solid military qualities, mortally wounded just as he was electrifying his troops by his example, taking a stubbornly defended enemy position. Ranking on the level of Bayard and La Tour d'Auvergne, and to be commended as an example for future generations, having been one of the most brilliant among the brave.”