June 24, 1918 – Full diary entry:
Bought bread cheese + jam. Lots of German spoken here. The people call themselves Alsatians.
An Air raid this A.M. Shells hit the beautiful church here.”
The regions of Alsace and Lorraine moved back and forth between French and German control several times before and after World War One. It’s no wonder the residents a) had a mix of both cultures and b) were accustomed to an ongoing state of war, as mentioned yesterday.
Alsace-Lorraine was the name given to the 5,067 square miles (13,123 square km) of territory that was ceded by France to Germany in 1871 after the Franco-German War. This territory was retroceded to France in 1919 after World War I, was ceded again to Germany in 1940 during World War II, and was again retroceded to France in 1945.
In From Doniphan to Verdun, Chaplain Edwards also notes the attractiveness of the church in Thann as a target for German artillery:
We began here to learn a lesson which became cleared throughout the war. The Boche are scientific artillerists; they registered on the fine old church, and dropped shells in the most frequented streets. It was here that “Shaky Pete,” a useful and popular sergeant, succumbed to the fortunes of war. A cafe was shelled; proprietor and patrons quickly decamped. The flasks, bottles and casks were left unguarded. To “Shaky Pete” they seemed lonely. At any moment a shell might destroy them all, what a cruel waste! He entered to guard the property. A few hours later he approached the Chaplain. “Chaplain,” he said, “I am going to be killed, I know I am going to die, but I’m going to die awfully happy.”
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.