The battle of the frontiers

“Football is a game that is played 11 to 11, and in the end, Germany wins ! “…

But if the elimination of the Mannschadt in the first round of the football world cup was kind of a surprise for many, it is the Germanophobic reactions of some of the French political staff that may have been most surprised on this side from the Rhine.

You read correctly ? “Football is a game …”, Mr. Melenchon !

The Franco-German friendship finds its roots in the horror of the Great War.

From the big story, we share our little pieces.

On the central place of Ispagnac, a village on the Tarn river, south of the Massif Central, and on the plaque in the church, the name of my great-grandfather is at the top of the long list of children “fallen in the field of honor “as they said then. Like my father after him, like my grandson today, his name was Gabriel.

Polytechnique, the school of application of Fontainebleau, Morocco with Lyautey, the Military High School (French “Ecole de Guerre”) : everything had first smiled on the child of the country.

At the beginning of the war of 1914, in garrison in Héricourt, he commanded the second group of the 47th regiment of field artillery. So close to the German border, he wrote to his wife : “We stand guard.” He was 47 years old.

From the 1st of August, the first day of the mobilization, until the beginning of September, he sent his wife, who had left Belfort for Vienna French area with the four children for the summer, billets full of tenderness, which I kept .

This phase of the fighting, just after the mobilization of the various belligerents, was called the “Battle of the Frontiers” : as it is a French expression, the term refers to the series of clashes between the German and Franco-British troops along the Franco-Belgian and Franco-German borders, over the period from 7 to 23 August 1914.

It essentially comprises two zones of combat : on the one hand in Haute-Alsace (battles of Mulhouse and Dornach), in the Vosges (battle of Donon) and on the Lorraine plateau (battles of Morhange and Sarrebourg) where the Germans repulsed the French offensives ; on the other hand, in the Belgian Ardennes (battle of the Ardennes) and the Sambre-et-Meuse furrow (battles of Charleroi and Mons), where the French, Belgians and Britons were depressed by the German offensive.

The German victories, especially in Belgium, led from August 23 the retreat of the French left wing and the small British army to Champagne : this “Great Retreat” was to end with the Battle of the Marne at the beginning of September. In Lorraine, the front would stabilize over the same period.

After a few weeks at the marches of Alsace, the 47th field artillery regiment is then reassembled towards the Oise.

The first battle of the Marne, often identified as “the battle of the Marne” took place from September 5, 1914 to September 12, 1914 between the German army on the one hand and the French army and the expeditionary British force on the other, leaded by a man with the predestined name of John French …

The fighting took place along a 225-km arc-de-cercle through Brie, Champagne and Argonne, limited to the west by the entrenched camp of Paris and to the east by the fortified place of Verdun.

Gabriel died on September 7, 1914, during the Brillancy fight : “under a very violent fire of the German artillery, he sought out a position to move one of his batteries, when he was mortally wounded by a shell of fat caliber. However, he gave his orders for the passage of the command of the Group and added : You will tell mine that I fell while doing my duty. Shortly after, he died of his wounds. “

Thus the quote to the order of the army bearing the award of his war cross, dated July 13, 1915 is written. It is signed by General Dubois, commander of the VIth Army.

His young widow – 40 years old at the time – did not know his death until October 3rd. It was Mathilde and Charles, who would become later my other great-grandparents on my father’s side, whom she wanted to confide in first.

Her husband had left her a beautiful letter, which I kept. Folded in 8 in a small envelope on which was written: “For my wife and children. If I am killed to send my wife Madame Lascols to Gencey, Vienna.

Dated August 3, 1914, the third day of her war, she began with these words, which a century later, have lost nothing in emotion:

“When you will read this paper, it will be because I will be dead for the Homeland by trying to do my duty. Thank you, dear darling, for the years of happiness that we have lived together. This paper will bring you the supreme adieu of your loving husband. This separation will be cruel to you but when you have the firm hope to be reunited one day, it seems very short … “.

Then, some recommendations, full of paternal tenderness, for each of the four children.

Like Karen Blixen, my great-grandmother found herself no longer a woman, but the heroine of a tragedy. She did not suffer a failure, she accepted a destiny. Behind the heroism of men, we can not forget the courage of women. Is there more courage to move uncovered a battery of 75, or – without wealth and income – to bring to adulthood three girls and a boy?

Like all French families, and with this special tribute paid by the families of the east of the country, the history of my family has been deeply marked by the great history.

And we can only have sorrow, seeing mediocre politicians stir up past passions. Franco-German friendship is, in Europe, our most sacred good.


Iconography: Belfort, the Castle and the Lion (personal collection)


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