Welcome on "World War Wounds",
After more than ten years of personal research, I have eventually decided to publish this English speaking blog, dedicated to a French family, the Baudiment family from Algiers, during the Great War: this was the family of my father's mother. She had two sisters, and three brothers:
Henri was commanding the 3rd Company of the 90th Infantry Regiment (from Châteauroux, Indre), as a Captain, when he was mown down by an Austrian 88mm shell, on the 22nd of April 1916, somewhere between Hill 304 and Mort-Homme Hill, in Verdun; he had been fighting, until then, in the 1st Battle of the Marne, in Ypres, and in Artois. He had been awarded the Military Cross, after the November fights in Ypres, in 1914, and had, then, taken part to the Battle of Loos, in September-October 1915, under the British Command,
Jean-Baptiste, had been severely wounded on the Champagne front, on the 18th of September, 1914, while he was serving as a Second-lieutenant at the 8th RMZ (Zouaves Regiment), having survived the fights in the St Gond Marsh, during the 1st Battle of the Marne; he then died in January 1922, definitively struck by the Spanish Flu, and
Aimé, a young Sergeant, was shot to death, while he was not even 18, when attacking for the first time, on the 11th of May 1915, in Neuville St Vaast (Artois).
Jean-Baptiste was buried in Algiers. Henri's grave was retrieved, not earlier than in May 1998, in a little village in Argonne. It is highly unlikely that Aimé's one will ever be found...
This blog is the result of the translation into English of a French blog "Blessures de Guerre", that I wrote and published on the subject in November 2008 [see hyper link on the Upper right corner].
The current one aims at being read and _ I hope_ appreciated by the German, or at least by the English speaking visitors, in order to share with them this sad and moving history of our grandfathers and great uncles. After all, this history is, now, our Common History.
I thank in advance all of those who will help me to maintain and/or improve and /or correct the text of this blog, which stays nevertheless more than perfectible...
Louis CAZAUBON, 1st February, 2009.
None of the documents presented here is copyright-free.
If any of you would like to get one of these documents in full definition, in order to publish (blog, article, ...), it is, of course, possible: you would just have to contact me through the hyper link "Contacter l'auteur" [See Upper left corner], where you can write to me and explain your request.
Be aware that my conditions are not financial. However, I would require that any document coming from this private collection would not be published unless explicitly mentioning the name of the author (and in particular: the photographies taken by Henri Baudiment), in order to pay respect to his memory, and to the memory of the men who suffered and fought with him.
Thank you for your good understanding.
"Dad? I am calling you from Verdun.
I just retrieved the grave of Henri Baudiment".
In the receiver, Daddy's voice broke down with emotion...
Photography: Pierre Cazaubon - May 1999
Eighty two years after his death, Henri, the elder brother of my Dad's mother, thus reappeared.
And with him, his history, and the history of his brothers.
Each of them had been transmitted to us as a legacy, like a deep and painful wound...
Painting of Henri Baudiment - Charcoal drawing from photography - 1920
Henri was born in Algeria, the eldest of six, from the encounter in Constantine, of Boniface, a gendarme, born in the French region of Berry, and Marie-Anne Robert, born ten years after in the region of Auvergne.
Photography of the family in Kouba, around 1895 - Starting from the left, sitting on the front rank: Jean-Baptiste (1st), Euphrasie (3rd), Charlotte, my grand mother (6th); sitting on the 2nd rank: Marie-Anne (3rd; upon her knees: Augustine); standing: Boniface (3rd from the left).
Having grown up amongst a strong and united family cell , Henri and both his brothers were given the strict education of the Troop's Cadets ("Enfants de Troupes").
Photography of the family in Algiers, around 1902 - Starting from the left: front: Augustine, Marie-Anne, Aimé, Boniface, Charlotte; rear: Euphrasie, Henri, jean-Baptiste.
When the War broke out, ...
... Henri was serving as a Warrant Officer, in the 90th Infantry Regiment, in Châteauroux (Indre).
On the very day following his eighteenth birthday, on the 28th July 1899, he volonteered and got enlisted as a simple private, into this professionnal regiment, quartered very nearby his father's birth-place.
He had married, on the 5th September 1908, Angèle Trochard, two years older than himself, and the daughter of a late Paris jeweller.
... Jean-Baptiste was belonging, on his side, to the 1st Batalion of the 1st Regiment of Zouaves, from Algiers, detached to the "Régiment de Marche de Zouaves" of the Mixt Brigade, and quartered in Chaouïa.
Enlisted as a volonteer in the 90th Infantry Regiment, on the 17th November 1902, when he was, too, eighteen, he had, then, made the choice to renew his engagement five years later, into the "Sovereignty Units" and the 1st Zouaves.
He had fought for the first time, during spring 1908, along the Southern border between Algeria and Morocco, then taken part, in January 1913, to the Moroccan battles. Due to his merits, he had been awarded the very rare Alaouite Ouissam, and promoted as a Warrant Officer, on the 3rd May 1913.
The 1st Batalion of the 1st Zouaves was, then, integrated, in August 1914, into the 8th "Régiment de Marche de Zouaves", recently created, and Jean-Baptiste was then promoted (Temporary) Second-Lieutenant on the 4th September 1914.
... Aimé, 16 years old, was still staying in Algiers, tenderly and wisely cocooned by his three sisters.
Family picture, Algiers beach, Summer 1913 - From left to right: Charlotte, Euphrasie and her son Marc, Aimé, Augustine.
Family picture, Algiers beach, Summer 1913 - From left to right: Aimé, Euphrasie and his son Marc, Augustine, Charlotte.
As soon as August 1914, Henri and Jean-Baptiste and their units took part to the first massive attack North bound, then to the retreat from Belgium. They, then, participated to the Battle of La Marne (Henri was fighting on the grassy slopes of the "Mont-Août" , and Jean-Baptiste in the Marsh of Saint-Gond) before pursuing the ennemy, until the front line got stabilized in Champagne, on the 17th September, 1914.
Photography: Henri Baudiment - No specified date.
Jean-Baptiste was severely injured in the left eye and in the chest, by some German schrapnell bullets, on the 18th September 1914, in Prunay sur Vesle (Marne).
On this occasion, Jean-Baptiste was awarded the "Légion d'Honneur" and the "Croix de Guerre" (with palm), mentioned in dispatches of the Army:
"Promoted from Warrant Officer to Second-Lieutenant, for the bravery he showed in all the fights he had been involved in, since the beginning of the campain. Was wounded on the 18th September 1914, and lost his left eye".
On the 2nd November 1914, he was sending the following news to his parents: "Do you recognize the disabled, with his head surrounded by napkins?".
Group photography, taken at the Temporary Hospital #24, in Montpellier, on the 2nd November 1914: Jean-Baptiste is standing, in the middle.
Meanwhile, Henri was entering Ypres'hell:
"...On the 11th [November], the violence of the bombing redoubles, and the German Infantry launches new assaults. The enemy forces are three to four times more numerous. The 90th has been holding the lines for 18 days; the 3rd Batalion in front of Passchendale, the 1st and 2nd Batalions in front of Zillebecke, without relief.
The men are exhausted. No more filers.
Every day, we had to suffer attacks, but we did progress. But the men have the strong feeling that, like in La Marne, they have to hold strong, or die. Everywhere, the assault was broken, and by the end of the afternoon, the Germans, who suffered considerable losses, start entrenching.
On the 12th, the Battle of Yser is over. The Germans do not push anymore...".
[Historical Account, 90th Infantry Regiment].
On the 6th November, Henri, who was still a Warrant Officer, was promoted Second-Lieutenant (Temporary), and took the command of the 3rd Company, in replacement of the Captain Gratteau, who had been killed in action, on the 31st of October.
Mentioned in dispatches of the Regiment, he was awarded the "Croix de Guerre":
"Excellent Company Commander, brave and self-controled in any situation. Especially distinguished himself between the 6th and the 12th November, during the fights around Ypres, when he gave the proof of a remarquable tenacity, sticking to his position under highly violent Infantry and gun fires."
He was, later on, awarded the Military Cross by the British, for his bravery, one of the 1423 French officers to have been awarded such an exceptional distinction, during the whole WWI [according to Abbot & Taplin, in "British Gallantry Awards" - 1981].
End of January 1915, Henri sent the following briefing of the Yser to Jean-Baptiste, who was convalescent in Algiers:
Hand made sketch by Henri BAUDIMENT: The fights of his company (the 3rd) around Ypres, beginning November 1914.
Despite the harsh fights and the rigorous Belgian winter, he succeeded, anyhow, and not later than this month of January 1915, in taking some distant view on his new appointment and responsibilities, particularly exposed, as a Company commander:
"I do not feel blue, anymore, and since I could take some rest, my thoughts have been calming down, and I have been recovering the taste for long correspondence.
Gunnery can hugely impact on the nervous system, and, at the end, you come to be a human beast, operating in a mode significantly different from the actual character".
With a great economy of words, Henri was giving his vision of the inexorable destruction of the small city of Ypres, and the long martyrdom of its inhabitants:
"...Ypres is a pretty little city of 18.000 inhabitants. Every time we come back to rest, in Vlamerthinge, we pass by the side of this town, and we walk through the bombed district. Since we walk during night time, the conflagrations light up the sky, and the shells often explode just above our heads. In a few days, nothing will be left out of this stylish little city. The covered market, the belfry, and some other beautiful monuments, are being reduced to ashes. The vandals (sic) are getting avenged through bombing and firing. By no means, I can get post cards, but, as soon as the printings are ready, you will get some snapshots of what is left of this charming city[...].
[...] In the small areas of St Jan and Vlamerthinge, the population has come back, little by little[...]
[...]The Belgian Army is getting reorganized; they can count on 15.000 men; they will operate with the English... Albert the 1st passed by Vlamerthinge on the 11th. I could not see him, on his way to visit Ypres and ascertain the damages by himself [...]."
[Letter dated January 1915]
"... Short stay under the bombarding of downtown [centre] Ypres by the "Boches" (sic). Poor town, this little city, so pretty, with ancient monuments, comes to be almost smashed to pieces[...].
[Letter dated 7th April 1915]
In April 1915, Aimé, who was less than 18 years old, had enlisted by anticipation: he was already a Sergeant, when he was sent to the front, amongst the 1st Batalion of the 8th "Régiment de Marche des Zouaves", the same batalion as his brother, and almost on the very location where Jean-Baptiste had been wounded, seven months earlier.
Photography annotated by Henri Baudiment: "Sillery (Marne) April 1915 - In reserve of the front line, 600 meters East of Prunay sur Vesle" (Aimé stands 3rd from the left).
Henri, who had been a military for fifteen years, and who was entering his ninth month of war, got immediately anxious about Aimé.
On the 7th April 1915, he wrote to his parents and his sisters:
"...I just got the news that Aimé was on the front. Send him as many recommendations as possible, to be extremely careful. Brain has to operate more often than the rest of the person...".
The 8th "Régiment de Marche des Zouaves" entered the battles on the 11th May 1915, in Neuville Saint Vaast (Pas de Calais), South of the Vimy Ridge:
"...Violent Infantry and machine guns firings are coming from the trenches located at 1000 meters beyond the very front, or from trenches or houses situated nearby the NW part of Neuville St Vaast village, and are creating very heavy losses [...].
The intensity of the enemy firing is such, and the losses so important, that it seems useless to keep moving forward [...].
From 2:30 pm until 8:00 pm, the groups that had somewhat advanced, cannot attempt anything but stay on their positions, under an efficient gunnery which joints the musketry and the machine guns. Every man who attempts to get up to advance, is immediately shot. Some of them try at best to entrench themselves with their portable tools, the others jump into the shell holes, as soon as they burst around them.
When the night comes, the survivors come back to the trench, and carry back many wounded who will be evacuated to the rear [...]."
[Record of the Walks and Operations of the 8th "Régiment de Marche des Zouaves"]
Offical photography of Aimé Baudiment, as a young sergeant at the 8th Zouaves, beginning 1915.
Aimé could not survive to this very first day of fighting.
According to one of his close companions, a bullet hit him right in the head.
Due to heavy and violent gunnery shells, which were turning over the soil of the battle field, no tomb of him was ever found.
Henri rushed up, as soon as he could, from the Loos-en-Gohelle sector, where he had taken an active part to the 9th May attack; he, then, attempted to retrieve any track of his younger brother, unfortunately without success:
"[...] I walked along and through all the temporary graveyards, village cimeteries, etc, etc... but I could not find out the tumb of our late beloved. What a real joy would have been mine, to find it, to grant him with a last and final salute, and to place there a bouquet of flowers with a wreath [...].
[...] This is a real calamity for our family, but you will have to console yourselves and to get over. And you have, now, to turn towards young children who come to birth, towards those who have reached the age of discretion. And if by misfortune, France had been invaded, what would we have become? Your three sons, educated in a military family, were on the duty to defend their Mother Country; we pay cash our duty; let us hope that it is over, now [...]."
[Letter, June 1915]
Map IGN 1/25.000e - ARRAS Nord
Today, Aimé may rest somewhere here, buried in the soil of this wide area in Artois, named "au Champ des Malades" (namely: "by the Field of the Sicks"), North to Neuville Saint Vaast.
Individual record of Aimé Baudiment (Source: Site "Mémoire des Hommes" of the French Ministry of Defense).
"Au Champ des Malades": the battle field of the 8th RMZ, on the 11th May 1915 - On the right, in the background: the Hill of Notre-Dame de Lorette, and its lighthouse - Photography: October 2007 - Vincent Le Calvez (many thanks to him)