Sunday, August 2, 2009

Faces of War . . .

If you have not been there already, I cannot recommend highly enough a visit to "Creating Pictures In My Mind", where Laurie Manton is doing simply excellent work digging up history and photos related to cemeteries and past wars. His two recent posts on "The Reality of War" are fascinating reading, with poignant and pertinent photos to support them.
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Outside of France I'm not sure how well known it may be that in the aftermath of World War One, in which France suffered 1.4 million dead and twice that many wounded, of which tens of thousands were considered 100% invalid, with missing limbs, or blind, or horribly disfiguring head wounds; an association was created to provide care and places to stay for soldiers who had suffered face and head wounds, because at the time a facial wound, no matter how terrible, did not merit a government pension. That association, "l' Union des blessées de la face et de la tête" (The Union of People with Face and Head Wounds) was better known as "les Gueules Cassées. . . the Broken Faces. (The word "Gueule" is not the proper term for a human face, it is normally used to refer to an animal's face.)
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That association, les Gueules Cassées, exists still today, they have a web site on which the history page gives you a small idea with a few photographs of what some of the individuals in question had suffered. One of their sites where wounded soldiers could live out their lives in seclusion if they so desired, is just north of Paris in the small village of Moussy. It is not open to the public. The last veterans from World War One have passed away, but more recent wars have continued to supply patients needing care in such facilities. . .
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9 comments:

La Framéricaine said...

It's very nice that you brought this particular corner of woundedness and care to the attention of the larger, international public. There's always something important to learn.

One of my all time favorite French films is "La vie et rien d'autre"--a WWI film. "Paths of Glory" is another great one. And I would be remiss if I did not mention "Un long dimanche de finaçailles"...

Have a great vacation, Owen!

jeff said...

Tu as retrouvé le château de Moulinsart ! ! ! Est-ce que Tintin t'as offert une tisane au moins ?...;-)
En parlant de tisane, j'ai pensé à toi cet après-midi ! J'ai filtré, filtré...!
Bon, et tes vacances sur les causses ? C'est quand que tu les prends ?...
CiaoamigOwen !...:)
A bientôt !

clo said...

coucou Owen..
il va être tout blanc Jef a force de rester enfermé dans son laboratoire a filtrer ...la tisane... ;)
le domaine des gueules cassées tu m'etonnes!!...
ca va toi Owen...
bon c'est vrai j'ai pas lu ton text in english...but...fais pas attention aux bêtises ...fatigue...
bises bises Owen...
j"ai bien aime hier les chaussons en peau de tigre...excellent...
oui j'ai vu c"est pas des chaussons...:)

robert said...

Morning Owen,
what a interesting entry to read tonight. Back in Germany one is able to work a year in either a hospital, a retirement home or some other kind of social work, if one doesn't want to serve in the army.
Wish that they would finally start building ploughs out of their weapons.
Please have a nice start into the new week.

Margaret Pangert said...

A lovely building and an extremely wonderful service, but were the sacrifices being repaid by the sobriquet gueules-cassees? That strikes me so at odds with this very worthy endeavor.

Steve said...

It always amazes me how, in our history, even when we try to be sensible and caring there is still an essence of insensitivity in our approach. Downgrading a human face to an animal face is horrendous but I bet it was done without any real intention of malice. And at least care was offered to these poor heroes.

Dedene said...

Have you ever seen "La Chambre des Officiers" with Sabine Azema? It's a good depiction of these soldiers.

The Sagittarian said...

...and here (catching up on the reading...)

Owen said...

Hi Saj... another WWI story here. I met a gentleman recently who had photographed some of the last surviving "gueules cassées" from WWI. He published a beautiful book about remaining traces of WWI, you can see more if you like by typing Jean Cartier in Google, he has a web site...

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Hi Dedene, no, haven't seen that one yet, will keep an eye out for it... thanks !

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Hey Steve, it's a fascinating story and I haven't explored it fully. But I don't think the name "Gueules Cassées" is perceived as degrading by anyone involved with it, that is what victims of such wounds were called at the time, and I guess the colloquial name stuck, I think with profound respect for their condition and the sacrifice they gave. I think you are right that there was no intention of malice; in the rough language of soldiers and war, such victims could only evoke the deepest empathy, of course for many tinged with horror and pity. A truly tragic side to war, where death and disfigurement are rarely neat and clean...

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Margaret, yes, a wonderful service, at least they could live out of sight of the public if they so desired. See answer to Steve, I don't think there was any disrespect in the name, in fact it had an almost mythic quality.

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Hi Robert, good that there are alternatives to military service. I'm no doubt naive, but I wish we did not need armies and trillions of dollars or euros or whatever of arms produced every year... to better massacre our fellow man. We live in a sick, perverted world, where the value system of far too much of the human race is just dead wrong, imho of course. From nuclear weapons to the lowly handgun, why are so many so obsessed with building ways to kill and maim ? Swords to plowshares indeed...

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Chère Clo, si cela t'intéresse, je suis sûr que nous pourrions transformer deux de ces tigres en chausson bien chauds... et tu as rais on de te soucier de notre ami, j'espère qu'il va arriver à s'en sortir de son état avancé de tisanisme... :-D

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Bon, Jeff, ne filtre pas trop, la tisane brut et bon aussi ! C'est bientôt les vacances, uh, enfin, ça y est... c'est aujourd'hui le début de vacances !!! Bientôt on sera en Brétagne... :-D Yaaayyyy !!!

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Chère Frame,
I haven't seen the first two films you mentioned, but I loved "Un Long Dimanche..." Audrey Tautou is fabulous in that... Maybe you've seen "Le Roi de Coeur" ? It was filmed in Senlis, just up the road a ways from here...