War 14-18: 2163 unpublished letters of two Confolens brothers handed over to the archives

In 1913 the two brilliant Confolentais left their countryside and went to study law in Poitiers; their mother…

In 1913 the two brilliant Confolentais left their countryside and went to study law in Poitiers; their mother and sister stayed in Charente. When war broke out in 1914, Louis and Jean were mobilized and went to the front, first to the east, then to various theaters of operations. Passed through the trenches, they continue to give news, as often as possible, to their family and a few friends. They tell touching stories, like Jean conjuring up this civilian with the cross on his forehead. She opened the door for him on Christmas Day. But they also talk about the boredom, the boiling, the endless waiting in the cold, between two attacks. They tell of the war, in short, in all its nastiness, “but without being trusted to preserve their mother and their sister”. The fact is that Jean died in 1919 in a car accident on the way back to Charente, deeply wounding his family, for whom war therefore became a taboo.

A treasure unearthed by the hairy grandniece

This voice, which we quote as if it had known the two men, is that of Monique Meron, a statistician in Paris. If she knows so much about Louis and Jean, she has only met them through their prose. It was she who dug up the letters of the young hairy people and immersed herself in them for several years.

A “treasure” of diversity, discovered “in the drawers of the old secretary in a family home “. A treasure that Monique leaned on for many months, with care. Alongside her work, she transcribed each letter, one by one, on the computer. “ A huge job », but necessary to see clearly in the font. “What we read there is the horror of the trenches, described with some modesty to spare their mother and their sister. But despite everything, there is a certain openness. He thus describes the soldier’s daily life: boredom, waiting, fear…” If these letters finally reached the archivists, it is thanks, among other things, to a friend of Monique Meron, himself an archivist, who made her aware of the historical value of the family treasure.

In the archives, “the beginning of a new life”

Added to this is the desire to convey, to tell the big story through the small. “It is fortunate that these letters reached me, that the mice did not eat them! I was very moved when I saw them, and it is important to me that our grandchildren can have access to them.” has moved Monique Meron. A relationship of more than a year followed with the department’s archives team. “We had to create real relationships, there is a bond of trust that needs to be established. » Marion Bernard manages the archives. “I think it’s normal! When we work on these kinds of projects, people need to see that they can trust us. »

Today’s arrival, which nevertheless fits on a coffee table, is therefore no easy task. And beyond the work of creating this gift, the collection is far from devoid of interest. Marion Bernard is enthusiastic. “These correspondences have the special feature of being fully followed [elles sont ininterrompues entre le début et la fin de la guerre]. This is unprecedented in Charente. » David Guéné, who is responsible for collection and classification at the archives, welcomes the interest of these letters for research. “ It obviously has historical interest because it is local! Each hairy lived a different story, and these letters testify to that. » They will thus be able to help historians in their research, and should help preserve the memory of the hairy people.

These letters are sensual, when you immerse yourself in them, you hear the sound of cannons.

It is precisely Albert Perles, responsible for cultural activities and the educational services of the archives, who takes care of the school children. “There is a real work of memory and transmission to be done around these letters. » And when asked if the story does not bore the children, the archivist, who has already started reading, does not hide his excitement. “When you first start reading these letters, it’s really exciting! They are sensual, when you read it, you hear the sound of cannons…”

The letters may have arrived, but the archivists’ work is far from over.. “Our task will be to bring this collection back to life.confirms Marion Bernard. The archives for these letters are a bit like the beginning of a new life! » The 2,163 letters will thus be digitized one by one in the coming weeks, after they have undergone a feasibility diagnosis. It will then be a matter of ensuring the preservation of the paper under ideal conditions, in neutral storage boxes, to slow down their degradation.

Letters for online consultation in the coming months

Are you interested in history and would you like to know more about these children from Confolens who lost their youth in the war? All the letters Monique Meron has given will be digitized and put online in the coming months. It will be enough to consult them to visit the website of the departmental archives.
However, be prepared to encounter some difficulties…especially deciphering the letters! Marion Bernard, the director of the departmental archives, confirms. “One of our skills as archivists is reading manuscripts! It’s a skill and sometimes you have to get used to it. “To be fair…
Website: archives.lacharente.fr (section “Search > Digitized sources”)

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