|Flanders poppy from our garden|
One of the wonderful things about moving to France is the fact that we are living in a property which has at least two centuries of history. The graffiti we found on the rafters and in the barn [see here] led us to wonder about previous residents. Our neighbour, Alexandra kindly gave us a collection of past copies of 'Charnizay: A travers les Siecles' the publication of the local historical society: Liaison et d'Amitié de Charnizay, son passé et la Nouvelle-France. Not only were these good for our French, but they provided loads of historical information.
One of the articles recounted the effect 'La Grande Guerre' [World War I] had on our village.
|French flower of remembrance|
The war memorial in the centre of the village cemetery lists 57 men who died in the 1914 – 1918 war. At first we thought this was rather a high number for such a small rural community; especially as the parish population in 1914 was just over 1,000. However, compulsory military service was used in all European countries pre-1914; with the exception of the United Kingdom. In France those men who had completed their compulsory military service in the years 1912/1913 [class of '12 and '13 as it were] as well as those recently trained in the first half of 1914 were called up at the outbreak of war on the 2nd of August, 1914. This meant that even in a small community like Charnizay quite a number of men were called up. Among these was Firmin Georges Chilloux, who listed as his place of residence one of the four houses in our tiny lieu-dit.
On that morning, those called up were ordered to assemble in front of the Mairie. Here they listened to a speech by th Mayor about the peril to 'La France' following the German invasion and the patriotic duty of all Frenchmen to defend their homeland. They then marched to Preuilly-sur-Claise – as agricultural workers 10 kilometres would not have been a problem – where they entrained for their respective barracks. Chilloux, as a soldier in the 113th 'Regiment d'Infanterie', went to Le Blanc. Issued with their tradtional infantry uniforms of blue jacket and red trousers [these 'please shoot me' uniforms weren't modernised until 1915] they were dispatched off to the front. Many had probably never travelled this far from the Aigronne Valley in their lives.
At this point, with the paucity of records due to the frenetic pace of invasion and mobilisation, the sequence of events is hard to follow. Those called up first were initially sent to attack the 'lost provinces' of 1871: Alsace and Lorraine. However, when the true nature of the German's 'Schlieffen Plan' became clear there was a rapid re-deployment along the Marne to protect Paris.
|Chilloux remembered on the Charnizay memorial|
The records show that 3 out of the 18 soldiers from Charnizay who were killed in September 1914 died in the region of the Meuse. Among them was Firmin Georges Chilloux. According to the documentation we have he is recorded as being killed on the 30th of September at 'la Haute-Chevauchee' in the commune of Chalade.
Firmin Georges Chilloux was 21 years of age.