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."

Croix_de_Guerre_avec__toile_de_bronze

 

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].

Military_Cross

 

End of January 1915, Henri sent the following briefing of the Yser to Jean-Baptiste, who was convalescent in Algiers:

Janvier_1915___Les_combats_d_Ypres_d_crits_par_Henri

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]