France 1916 – 2016 100 YEARS AGO, AT GRENELLE…
In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, the premises of he Novitiate of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, 57 rue Violet, became the auxiliary hospital no. 66 of the society for assistance to wounded soldiers, run by the French Red Cross. As the sisters kept a detailed journal recounting their impressions, we have taken some passages concerning the period of the battle of Verdun in 1916
In the past week there has been the arrival of twelve soldiers wounded at Verdun. Several come from the provinces that had been invaded; others are very young: one of them talks of Verdun with a kind of fierce horror: "No, it is not possible to think about it; we will never be able to say what we saw there!"
5th of May – Eight more wounded from Verdun, 20 in all.
8th of May – T., who has undergone an amputation: he is 23 years old, and has a childlike face. He showed us a letter from the army doctor who had dressed his wounds – a letter full of respect for this young man, telling him how a shell killed Captain B. and a priest who was a soldier of the regiment – the wounded soldier was very sad to learn this. The captain, a lawyer at Cambrai before the war, seems to have been a real leader, the priest soldier rendered innumerable services, "a fine chap" the wounded man said. As regards the loss of his leg: "I have seen so much, Madam, that I consider myself fortunate. I have my hands that I can work with, and my eyes to see my parents again".
12th of May – On leaving the hospital at 7 o’clock, I met M., the soldier whose leg had been amputated, and B. the Vendéen. They were returning from the depot at Vanves and would be leaving the next day; their discharge was finalised. It was moving to see their emotion – the gratitude towards the Sisters and their memories of the hospital were expressed so effusively that it brought tears to my eyes. Fine men, both of them; they recalled the care given by the Sisters, the visits: "The wounded person", said M., "needs to have somebody with whom he can chat. If he is well cared for but left alone, he is sad, because he is thinking of his own people; the visits provide a distraction for him. He recovers more quickly when he is not so sad”.
14th of May – Visit to those who are lonely. Some of the wounded men who have arrived more recently from the provinces that were invaded never have anybody, so they are happy to see us.
19th of May – A visit to the wards filled with sunlight: in the garden the birds were singing. "We are in paradise here", said a survivor of Verdun. He recounted the terrible scenes he had seen there, gravely, simply, without complaints or exaggeration.