Category Archives: France

Churches in World War 1

Soldiers and Parishioners in a Church 1914A group of French soldiers, guns by their side, rest on a straw bedding laid down on the floor of the church. meanwhile a group of parishioners kneel and pray facing the altar.

 

Although all of the combatants were majority Christian nations, churches became focal points of fighting and were often commandeered to serve as bases, barracks, and field hospitals. The sturdy stone construction of churches and cathedrals meant that they made good strong points, and so they were often fortified and used as forts. Also their steeples served as good observation posts. As a result churches suffered terrible damage from artillery and infantry fighting, and were desecrated by both sides in the war.

Life Underground

Caves World War 1

French Soldiers Resting in a Deep Underground Shelter

As the war developed into a relative stalemate, each side dug extensive networks of trenches. Initially the trenches were just crude ditches, but as time went on they became permanent living quarters as well as defensive positions. Deep underground shelters were dug to provide protection to troops from enemy artillery. Sometimes the trenches ran through areas of naturally occurring cave systems and soldiers took advantage of the existing formations and became cave dwellers.

 

Here in the damp darkness the men could rest, write letters and enjoy a little respite from the horrors on the surface. This photo shows French soldiers resting an underground cave. Most of them are sleeping or lying down on cots lining the walls of the cave; one of the men is writing a letter home by the dim light of this cave. As bleak as this home was at least it afforded relative safety.

A Devastated France and Her American Friends

Helping France

Wartime poster depicts a French widow and her child, and a wounded French soldier being helped by a woman in white, a personification of the American volunteers. In the background is a large American flag and beyond that scenes of war damage and devastation. family without a husband. On the right, is a peasant ploughing in the field. Approximately eight million acres of French land were devastated by the war.

These days it has become fashionable in the United States, especially among conservative media, to mock France as a nation of surrendering cowards who lack any sense of bravery or military toughness. This unfounded image is rooted somewhat in the French defeat during World War 2, but its roots are primarily in the fact that France wisely refused to join in the invasion of Iraq, and this angered During the height of the anti-French hysteria and backlash many conservative media personalities urged renaming French fries, “Freedom Fries” presumably because the disloyal French were not worthy of having their name associated with an American junk food stable.

But it was not always like this. There was a time, especially during the First World War, that Americans loved France and French culture. American politicians and the public acknowledged the debt they owed the French for helping them throw off British rule during the American Revolution. And so when France needed help, they volunteered, donated and fought to save France.

The poster above is for a charitable organization called the American Committe for the Devastated French Regions. This committee was formed by the youngest daughter of the American financier Jp Morgan, Anne Morgan (1873–1952) and her friend Anne Murray Dike (1879–1929), a medical doctor.

The organization worked hard to repair the severe damage done to France, which bore most of the fighting on its territory during the entire war. Armies of American volunteers were organized into a semi military organization. They lived in barracks, wore uniforms, and worked long hours. Volunteers had to pay their own expenses, typically about $1,500 a year ( a considerable sum back then).

Despite the rigors and hardships of serving in the Committee, thousands of Americans volunteered, including as many as 6,000 female doctors, who wanted to serve the war effort but who were not allowed to join the American armed forces.

 

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