The "great war", only a century behind us

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It is unsettling to consciously realize that there is only one unit of human history (a century) that separates us from the great war (!?). I remember the same odd feeling of History suddenly shrinking to a speck of insignificant duration at the occasion of the bicentenary of the French revolution, which was the first of the decisive turning points leading to our contemporary society: the revolution leading to the first war, the first to the second and the second leading us to where we are now (see Jean Dutour for the details of this sequence would this not be evident). The French revolution, however disruptive and terrible it was, still carried at least the illusion of a step forward. It made such a great impression on such a great man as Victor Hugo. With the first war just behind him, Bernanos, the most visionary writer of his time, was already observing that "le visage du monde devenait hideux" (en). After the second, it was plain for everybody to see its traumatic proportions. In this droplet of time that separates us from the first war, three generations of my ancestors have gone. It almost took me out as well.

And those it did take out, it more often than not expelled in unceremonial terms. I was writing a few years back, on the 93th anniversary of the same event (which was the first without surviving French soldiers), how my great-grandfather, Pierre Laussy, had been more assassinated than the others as he got excluded from the great snapshot of the country's population that are the Monuments aux Morts, making a random sampling of its inhabitants by casting in stone their names and first names. My great-grandfather does not enter because he died of war wounds (gas) that did not kill him on the spot but had him agonize instead during the time it took to finalize the official statistics. It is not even that he survived the war by a decade, or even a year. If you could make it in time to die in your bed at home, that was apparently enough to consider that you survived the thing. His son, my grandfather, was still recognized as a Pupille de la Nation so this is really an administrative facility that was taken with the deads, who did not care, who would probably not have cared anyway, since four years in trenches murdering and being murdered is certainly the best arena to grow a political conscience and understanding that all the honors bound to follow mainly are a propaganda to serve a governmental agenda.

Still, from our today's detached perspective, where commemoration can harmlessly take the place of decency and reason, such a random sampling is a fascinating dataset, that allows for some interesting statistics (à la 3:16). This is only recently starting to be seriously investigated, although, Alas!, sometimes for insidious purposes. For instance, a journal (Le Parisien) recently reported that the most popular Arabic first name (Mohamed and its many variations) is more recurrent than one of the least popular French first name, which also happens, and probably for that reason, to be the most popular French family name (Martin). The headline reads that there are "plus de Mohamed que de Martin parmi les morts pour la France" (en). This is journalism at its most pernicious: how to turn a true fact (and in this case actually good article with interesting content) into a misleading information that conveys the opposite meaning of the actual truth. I thought at first this was just what we now call a "fake news" until, by reading the article, I understood that the point of this title is that there are not many Martin Martin, but a lot of Jean and Louis and François, or, as was the case in my family tree, of Pierre (for which I am, incidentally, Fabrice Pierre; there were definitely more Mohameds than Fabrice, as well, to die or live or do anything else in the war).

In my previous blog post, I was also referring to the only Laussy by name to make this list which is not exhaustive but gave plenty of opportunities to be featured there [1]. He was from a neighboring village (Tourniac) and certainly family-related. From the data now available [2], one can even know his burial site (he occupies the first tomb on the first alley in the Carré Militaire of Hazebrouck:

  • Conflit : 1914-1918
  • Grade, unité : Soldat - 104e R.I. [Infanterie] - R.I. Régiment d'Infanterie En garnison à Argentan et Paris au moment de la mobilisation d'août 1914, rattaché à la 14e brigade d'infanterie de la 7e D.I.
  • Complément : 11e Cie
  • Matricule au recrutement : 1886 - Aurillac (Cantal) - Subdivision
  • Naissance
    • Date : 15/02/1896
    • Département : 15 - Cantal
    • Commune : Tourniac (« Pleaux(15) » depuis le 01-01-1973)
  • Décès
    • Date : 26/05/1918 (22 ans)
    • Département : 59 - Nord
    • Commune : Terdeghem
    • Genre de mort : Mort des suites de blessures
    • Mention Mort pour la France : Oui
  • Transcription
    • Date : 07/12/1918
    • Département : 15 - Cantal
    • Commune : Tourniac
  • Inhumation
    • Département : 59 - Nord
    • Commune : Hazebrouck
    • Lieu : Carré militaire
    • Carré, rang, tombe : Tombe 1 (Allée 1, 1ère tombe)

I also see that he was 22, not 32 as reported earlier, so definitely not my great-great-grandfather, but a possible great-granduncle. One droplet of human history only that he is resting, first in line in the first alley of the fallen martyrs of Hazebrouck, a name so unlike those of his native Cantal. Only a droplet of time, but a sea of stolen time and an ocean of sacrifice.