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Can a French speaker help me?

I found this while going through things on the Vineyard. I believe it is military, and from WW1. I had a great uncle, who died in Belgium. (Belleau wood,) could this have anything to do with this?


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2012 04:05 am (UTC)
"...le boche..."
A less flattering name for the Kraut.
Aug. 17th, 2012 04:16 am (UTC)
I hope there is nothing ugly in this. (Beyond that war is ugly.) I have very little idea what it says.

It may have come home sometime after Nov 1918. maybe it was in a coat pocket, or a stack of papers. It has been forgotten in a trunk for a very long time.

I have no idea why it is written in French, or how it got to Massachusetts. If it to do with my family, it came by way of Connecticut.

it could not have come home with my Great Uncle Donald. He did not come home.
Aug. 17th, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
It reads like an official report by that lieutenant who signed it. It's nothing too ugly, just a report about how his unit halted the enemy's approach like it was commanded to do. I don't know if it helps, but the whole business took place somewhere in or near the Vosges: "l'Ortomont" in the second to last paragraph is a mountain on which, apparently, the enemy was stationed. The unit is advised to take care that they are not spotted from the mountain…
Aug. 17th, 2012 06:55 am (UTC)
Thank you. It is always astonishing to me that there were still towns and buildings, and physical land features, where the fighting was. So sad.
Aug. 17th, 2012 06:21 am (UTC)
It's a battle order of sorts and 'le Bosche/boche' was common usage for the German forces in WW1. ugly or not - it was used in Britain too. the places mentioned don't appear on Google Maps so I can only assume that they are properties or 'lieu dit' - areas known by a certain name by the local inhabitants). the title seems to position the unit at 'Marion' but this may be mis-spelt or again a 'lieu-dit' because i find no reference to a place with that name in France.

The 2 units of the section are charged with blocking or slowing the enemy's advance if the Bosch manages to capture the Ceriseraie( probably the name of an estate; could just be a cherry orchard) and break our line of resistance TB* the Ceriseraie

the firing lines are excellent in all areas and the guns ('pieces' in this sense is individual gun position) should be able to keep the enemy at bay within a radius of 120°


Hold out at all costs.

2 arms by section
12150 DAM**
round the clock sentry and a unit leader.
it is formally recommended that all precautions be taken to avoid being seen by those on/in l'Ortomant (I think this is probably another house/estate/farm held by 'the enemy')

Watch the trench/narrow passage? (boyau is literally intestine so I would suspect that it was used for a narrow and maybe partially covered access line)running to the 2nd gun 100 metres to the south

* no idea what this means...any military historians among us?
** I think this is the indication how it got back to MA...DAM was and still is a munitions manufacturer that supplies the US Army and no doubt supplied the Allies in WW1 (and WW2). DAM is apparently based in New York State;
Aug. 17th, 2012 06:53 am (UTC)
Wow. That is pretty amazing. So immediate. Wonder what happened-- were they able to 'hold out at all costs?'

Poor men-- poor all of them.
Aug. 17th, 2012 09:22 am (UTC)
It's one of those snippets that make you realise how much is 'hidden from history' (to quote the title of a seminal book on women's history). these things are so evocative of the day to day workings of war.
Aug. 17th, 2012 01:22 pm (UTC)
This site might be of interest, and it involves this Ortomont:

"Due to their occupation of the highest ground in the sector, the peak of Ortomont, the Germans were able to place artillery fire on all portions of the front."

The St Die sector, where Ortomont was, is in the Vosges, now France, and this particular report is after the Battle of Belleau Wood.

But the French were there earlier of course, from 1914 until the Americans arrived. This is one of their infirmaries, taken from Google Earth ('Ortomont' will take you right to the spot, from where the Germans could cover the French positions. There are plenty of pictures of the traces of the War.)

That is a really interesting find you have there!


And this (in google translation) is even more interesting. I think the date of your doc is 25/4/1915 - but I can't see if there is a readable French signature or battalion named - you may be able to google even more detail.

Minor edit for non-French speakers: Coast is a translation of côte, which also means slope, or hill. Cote was used in the French army to designate points along the line. It is without accent in the original and would then mean something like mark or number (classification). Cote d'alerte (without circumflex) means danger point. I have not thought of that before, and can't be sure if accents were used in other things I have read. Anyway, it doesn't mean 'coast'!

Edited at 2012-08-17 01:47 pm (UTC)
Aug. 17th, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I am of no use at all here. I can't read French and my knowledge of specific WWI campaigns is limited. It's absolutely wonderful to see this letter though and to read the fascinating comments others have posted. A quick google also turned up this Dutch blog with lots of recent pictures of the battlefields around Ortomont.
Aug. 19th, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
Fascinating -I would not have been too much help either but its great to see how one document can bring forth so much in short order .
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )