War Memorials

War Memorial in Azannes (Meuse department)
War Memorial in Azannes (Meuse department) - MINDEF/SGA/DMPA JP le Padellec

In many communities, war memorials stand in memory of the soldiers who ”Died for France”.

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These memorials, the vast majority of which were set up after World War I, come in a wide variety of sizes and architectures. The expression ”monument aux morts” (war memorial) here applies to the structures set up by local communities - usually municipalities - to honour the memory of their fellow citizens who ”Died for France”, except for the departments of Alsace and Moselle where, for historical reasons, this notion has been replaced by ”Died at War” for World War I.


They first appeared after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, but the vast majority of them were set up after World War I, and the names of those who ”Died for France” in later conflicts were simply added.


War memorials are still being built today. Based on the spirit of the law of 25 October 1919, a practice has become the rule since World War I as the reference for municipal decisions in this area - the inscription of a name is fully justified when the deceased, who died during a war or operations related to war campaigns, has received the citation ”Mort pour la France” (Died for France), and was born in or had his/her last place of residence in the community in question. Some municipalities have sometimes extended this possibility to victims who died after a war exploit, so long as the two aforementioned conditions are met - receiving the citation ”Mort pour la France” and a direct connection with the community. Legally, war memorials are for the most part municipal property and as such come under the authority of the municipalities.


At first, the function of these structures was to bring the population together around the memory of those who will never return to live in their town, thus including the community in the families' grieving process. Furthermore, engraving the names of the dead gave them a bit of the glory that decorated those who had sacrificed themselves for the French Armies' victory.


These memorials are often ignored today. And yet they continue to bear witness to our history in many ways, whether the history of mentalities, history of art, or quite simply the history of the community - the names engraved embody the costs of war on local life and are sometimes the only trace of some families.


Their location, their dimensions and their ornamentation vary widely.



Source: SGA/DMPA/SDACE/BVAC

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Practical information:

Contact: Bureau de la vie associative et des ceremonies (Office of Associations and Ceremonies)

E-mail: dmpa-sdace-bvac@sga.defense.gouv.fr