WW1 Research -Newspapers -Le Petit Journal.
The Battle of Bazentin –The Somme. General Fayolle s account.
When researching WW1 there are many valuable sources out there to use, family history websites, databases, journals and libraries but as well as these obvious ones, there is another wonderful source of research WW1 that is often overlooked and it’ s called Ebay.
I am currently researching my great uncle Archie’s role in WW1, he was killed in the Somme on July the 14th, 1916 in the battle of Bazentin Le Petit. I had discovered an old family trunk only three months ago, I found all Archie s medals, dead man s penny and a few other pieces of WW1 memorabilia and propaganda.
I was really looking for a more “local” or immediate record of the battle, something a little different -newspaper articles, illustrations, photos or cartoons. I had found a few illustrations on Getty images but didn’t feel like forking out too much on documents that are in the public domain so hey presto to the EBay search tool and up popped , Le Petit Journal of August 1916 an 8 page supplement. The back page of the supplement sports a colour illustration by Damblans with the text which reads,” How the English celebrated France s Day”, the 14th of July (see the above image).
This is an extract from the article about General Fayolle’s account of the battle.
“It was one of the injured who had described to our colleague at the Daily Mail how he and his comrades had, heroically, on July 14th, celebrated France’ s Day. We all knew that it was France’s day and I would n t be at all surprised , judging by their resolved and steadfast attacks, their manner of firing, by all their actions from the beginning of the attack until the end last Friday, if our lads had not taken a leaf out of our brave French ally’s book. What I want to say is that they showed that same bravery, and they were many who showed it, that valiant charge, that courage, that strength so characteristic of the French troops. The first day of the battle, the 1st July had been epic but Friday, as I witnessed it, was glorious. I have been told that here in England you have paid great tribute to our courageous allies. Well! I do not believe it to have been more glorious than the battle fought by our brave soldiers between Ovilliers and Longueval.
Everyone knows France s day and on Friday our battle cry was “Beautiful France” and “Long Live France” that must have seemed very funny indeed to The Bosche.
Look, here, we were to take this point that you can see on the map (Bazentin) we marched forward in four battalions. Mine was the third. Master Bosche gave a hot reception to the first two and mine. The first two battalions were to reach the first and second trenches. This they did remarkably well and at that moment the German machine guns started.
I can give you my word that half of my men jumped into the Bosche trenches without one weapon in their hands as many of them had had their rifles damaged. I have never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life. My men took no notice of the Bosche bayonets, as if they had not even existed, I have never seen such fury. They were true devils possessed with their incessant cries of Live France! Francais forever!
Seeing all my lads teasing the Bosche with their hands and arms bare, that is worth living for …or dying. One officer in my section went down into the trench grabbed the Bosche by their breeches and necks and threw them over the parapet to finish on what remained of their barbed wire,” get you gone” , he shouted and I know not what else , “to hell with you”. Anyway he put them out of business all right.
(Translation by me)
J.Bowell all rights reserved
“Le Petit Journal”, was a Parisian newspaper that was published from 1863 to 1944 and during the WW1 period was full of propaganda, as one would expect.
All copies can be found online also at Gallica, the digital library of the BnF. In French.
My copy cost me £4 on Ebay from France, postage £1 because I wanted one for keepsakes.
Today, French TV channel, Canal plus has an upbeat televised news programme of the same name.