Tag Archives: armistice

Lettre d’un Poilu

Here’s an exemple with (my) translation of a French soldier’s words to his 15 month old son.  The text was found online at the website:  http://textes.poesies.free.fr/news.php?extend.449.7

A mon petit Armand

Tu es encore bien jeune et ne peux comprendre ce qui se passe en ce moment : la guerre, ses horreurs, ses souffrances.
Cette carte sera un souvenir de ton père, et il te souhaite qu’a l’avenir les hommes soient meilleurs, et que semblable chose ne puisse plus arriver.
Que jamais tu n’aies besoin, et sois forcé, de mener la vie que je subis en ce moment en compagnie de beaucoup de papas qui ont laissé, comme moi, de petits anges chez eux.
Pour t’élever, tu te trouves d’être bien pénible, mais tu te rattraperas de cela en étant dans quelques années un petit garçon bien gentil et obéissant.
Le moment venu, je serai sûrement auprès de toi pour te diriger, mais si mon espoir était déçu, en mémoire de ce père que tu n’auras pas connu, redouble de gentillesse pour ta mère et pour ceux qui t’élèveront.
Devenu un homme, sois du nombre de ceux qu’on appelle les honnêtes gens.
Sois bon pour ton prochain, ne fais pas ce que tu ne voudrais pas qu’il te fût fait.
Vénère ta mère ; sois pour elle un soutien véritable.
Rappelle-toi aussi que le vrai bonheur ne se trouve pas dans la richesse et les honneurs, mais dans le devoir vaillamment accompli, ainsi que les bonnes actions.
Si le destin te donne des épreuves à subir, sois courageux et tu les surmonteras, mais si par malheur tu te laisses entraîner par le vice, les passions, relis vite mes conseils, ne te laisse pas aller à la dérive.
Il n’y a que le premier pas qui coûte ; une fois entraîné par le courant, on roule de chute en chute, et il arrive qu’on ne peut plus se relever.
C’est trop tard.
Alors, arrivé à ce point, la vie est finie.
Gâchée par sa faute.
Et on est plus bon qu’à être la risée, ou montré du doigt par tout le monde, suivant le penchant qui a perdu l’homme.
J’espère n’avoir pas à rougir de toi car je sens que tu suivras le chemin de l’honneur.
En attendant de pouvoir te choyer et caresser, je te fais, mon petit fanfan, de grosses bises.







5 août 1915

You are still quite young and cannot understand what is happening at this moment : the war, the horrors, the suffering. This letter will be a souvenir of your father, and il hopes that in the future men will be better, and that something like this may never happen again. That you never need, and never be forced, to lead the life that I am subjected to while in the company of many dads that have left, like me, little angels in their homes. Raising you is painful or difficult, but you will make up for it given that in a few years you will be a nice and obedient young boy. That moment come, I will surely be near to direct you, but if my hope is disappointed, in memory of this father that you will not have known, double up your kindness for your mother and for those who will raise you.
Having become a man, be amongst those who call themselves honest people. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Respect your mother ; be for her a true support.  Remember also that true happiness cannot be found in riches or honors, but in work valiantly accomplished, as well as good deeds. If destiny subjects you to trials and tribulations, be courageous and you will overcome them, but if by misfortune you let yourself get dragged into vice, passions, reread my advice, don’t let yourself get swepted away. Only the first step costs us ; once we are swept away by the current, we fall lower and lower, until we can no longer get up. It’s too late. So, arriving at this point, life is finished. It is wasted by our own fault. And we are only good for being laughed at, or pointed the finger at by everyone, according to how we’ve lost ourselves. I hope never to feel ashamed of you because I sense that you will follow the honorable path. While waiting to be able to hold and caress you, I give you, my small child, many kisses.

Joseph Thomas was a farmer and lived in Saint-George-d’Espéranche.
This letter was destined to his 15 month old child.
Joseph only had 8 months left to live. He died March 30th 1916 in Verdun.








Day 3 – 11 novembre – le jour de l’Armistice (Veteran’s Day WWI)

Day 3 – 11 nov : Le Jour de l’Armistice


Please excuse my absence for the past few days. At first I was reeling from the results of the American elections. Then I was knee deep in research and thoughts in preparation for this week’s blog.


Today is November 11th. In the United States, we might refer to this date as Veteran’s day and this day is used to commemorate the veterans and fallen of all previous wars.  In France, this day is solely for the commemoration of the fallen and the veterans of one war: WWI.  French soldiers of WWI were called “les poilus”, literally meaning “the hairy”. They were called this because while deep in the trenches, they had no time to shave their beards. In France, WWI is most often referred to as “La Grande Guerre” or “la Guerre 14-18”. (Just in case you don’t know, this is referring to the years that WWI spanned: 1914-1918) Another French name for this day is “le jour de l’Armistice”, which celebrates the end of WWI.  The war was said to have ended at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918.


Armistice day is a national holiday here. Schools are closed today. Many businesses took a four-day weekend. Today at 10:30am, there will be a national memorial ceremony shown live on tv and that will be presided by the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.


On Sunday morning, in my village, I attended two out of three ceremonies honoring the fallen and the veterans. Each dedication was short and sober, but heavy with emotion. The conciseness of the ceremonies left me wanting and curious. Armistice day is 90 years old today. But, its relevance is still necessary in a world like today. People then called it the Great War and the War to End All Wars. As interesting as this all is to me, you’re not here for a politics, nor a history lesson.


Here are some sites where you can go to read letters by “les poilus” or see some of these local and national memorials monuments.


1. lettres par poilus :



2. pictures of memorials :


I will put up some letters with their translations on my blog as soon as I get permission to do so. Although this stuff may seem gloomy, these are important topics to learn about. We do not choose what we learn in our mother tongues. To become fluent and conversive in other languages, we can choose to touch on all subjects. “Enjoy” the reading and allow it to take you that step closer to your goal in language learning.


Happy Learning!