Louis de Cazenave - Oldest French Poilu

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, May 23, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Louis de Cazenave was, at the time of his death, the oldest French poilu still alive. As of December 11, 2007, he was the fourth-oldest man in Europe and the eleventh-oldest man in the world as well, until his own death just 40 days later.

    Born and raised in Saint-Georges-d'Aurac and mobilized at the end of 1916, he found himself on the colonial infantry front in the 5th Senegalese Tirailleur Battalion, and he took part in the battle of Chemin des Dames.

    At the end of the war, de Cazenave returned to Haute-Loire and married in 1920 to Marie, a postmistress with whom he had three sons. He became a railwayman, joining the predecessor to the SNCF. His experiences led him to become a convinced pacifist; later on, he participated in the strikes and demonstrations of the Popular Front in 1936 before going into retirement in 1941. During the Nazi occupation of France, he subscribed to the banned left-wing libertarian journal La Patrie Humaine and was imprisoned by the pro-Nazi regime.

    He lived in Brioude with his family. Although at first refusing any decorations, de Cazenave accepted the Légion d’honneur in 1995, along with several other veterans.


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  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    In April 1917, assigned to the Fifth Senegalese Rifles, Louis fought in one of the most disastrous French actions of the war, at the Chemin des Dames, during the Second Battle of the Aisne.
    The chemin was an 18th Century road straddling a ridge.
    The Germans took it in late 1914, and after two years of attritional warfare, the French commander-in-chief, Gen Robert Nivelle, recommended a massive assault against them.
    But squabbling between Allied leaders lead to delays and leaks.
    Forewarned, the Germans dug in so well that the creeping artillery barrage ahead of the French advance did little to dislodge them.
    Across the battlefront the French lost 40,000 men on the first day.
    Some reports say the advancing French bleated in mocking acknowledgement that they were lambs to the slaughter.
    "War is something absurd, useless, that nothing can justify. Nothing," he told Le Monde newspaper in a 2005 interview.
    In that interview, he described walking through fields of wounded soldiers calling for their mothers, begging to be finished off.

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