Friendships in Santerre, land of war

It was a beautiful almost winter afternoon. A soft dusty light caressed the grassy grounds of the Santerre. With an expert hand, I drove my Dacia Sandero to get to Le Germoir, 13, rue de l’Eglise, in Framerville. Observing this red earth, I thought of the Great War, of our allied friends, British, Canadian, Australian, Scottish, Irish, New Zealanders who had trodden on it, dug it, before being injured or killed by the enemy hordes came from across the Rhine. Honor to them! Infinite respect and gratitude.

A little further east, towards Péronne, our Poilus defended the ground. My grandfather Alfred was one of them. Wounded several times, in particular by a fragment of a Prussian shell during the attack on the Bois de Maurepas, an injury that left a lifelong scar on his big white head as a permanent railway worker. Waves of melancholy came over me. I saw him bent over another land, that of the garden of his son’s house, my father, another Alfred, rue des Pavillons in Tergnier, land that he turned over, hoeed, digged and in which he happened to find bullets, bits of steel, a remnant of the fierce fighting that had taken place in my dear town of Aisne, martyred by the Prussians who, when they scampered off in 1917, took revenge by bombarding and dynamiting the entire locality, leaving only three mansions to accommodate the staff because they hoped to return there. They never came back; we have the right not to regret it. Yes, I was thinking of all that, of the Teutons, of my grandfather, of Pierre MacOrlana magnificent writer unjustly forgotten today, wounded in front of Péronne, his birthplace.

My friend the writer Alain Lebrunfounder of Little streams editionsinvited me to Le Germoir to meet my friend Jean-Luc Muller, with whom I had put him in touch so that the latter could publish, at Les Petits Ruins, texts by his grandfather, Gabriel Locqueneux, former mayor of Tergnier, a former teacher, eminently respected in the Axon railway city. It must have been more than 45 years since I had seen Jean-Luc. Our professional backgrounds had separated us. He undertook brilliant studies in musicology at La Sorbonne; they led him to teach music at the French school in London. Emotion, when we saw each other again. He was accompanied by his sister, Annick, Ternoise too. Our fathers, too, knew each other very well and had studied together at the Lycée de Chauny; it creates links. Jean-Luc came to present Alain Lebrun and the members of the reading committee with documents carefully written and/or collected by great-grandparents, Léonie and Georges Locqueneux, then by their children Gabriel (future mayor of Tergnier), Henri, Renee and Marcel. When war broke out in August 1914, Léonie and Georges were teachers at Anguilcourt-le-SartRiver (the greenhouse) and a bridge separated Anguilcourt and Le Sart; they began to keep a sort of diary. Fathers came into the classroom to say goodbye to their children. Many were those who did not return. There is also talk of Christmas in the trenches. The provisional title of the work could be, according to Jean-Luc, Brief Picardy chronicles in wartime, 1914-18/1940. He also presented rhyming thoughtsa collection of 161 poems written by Gabriel Locqueneux.

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Friendships in Santerre, land of war

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