Monday, June 11, 2012

Remembering Vendéans On 11 June

The Vendée has a history all its own. One of the most notable and tragic periods in its history, of course, was the Wars Of The Vendée. There are, however, other less well known periods in Vendéen history with their own, unique story and today we remember one of them.

On 11 June 1916, in the middle of World War I, something happened that has become known as “La Tranchée des Baionnettes". French infantry soldiers encamped in a trench close to Douaumont were preparing for a bayonet assault on the enemy but before they could launch their attack the ground all around them suddenly caved in. It was the result of a massive explosion nearby. No less than 57 of the soldiers including 33 Vendéans were buried alive. Many of these men were from the 93rd RI of La Roche-sur-Yon, capital of the Vendée. 

 This photograph (courtesy of Wikipedia) shows the memorial at the site 

The First World War claimed many more Vendéen casualties as is evidenced by the numerous war memorials in villages all over the Vendée, including one in Sainte Hermine which depicts Georges Clemenceau standing resolute with French trench soldiers in support behind. 

 This photograph we took ourselves on a recent visit to Sainte Hermine

Clemenceau himself unveiled this memorial in October 1921, such was his pride of association with its symbolism. He was of course the man responsible for the drawing up of the peace treaty that ended World War I. What's more, he was born in the Vendée.