14-18 Langres

at war

The « Foyer du Soldat »

In direct contact with the men in the garrison, the « Foyer du Soldat », (« Soldiers’ Centre ») also known as « Abri du Soldat » (« Soldiers’ Shelter ») was in operation in Langres from the start of 1915. It was set up in a building on Rue Vauban belonging to the town, previously occupied by the Agricultural Society. Its role consisted of supplying « soldiers with warm drinks, everything needed to write, books and especially refuge. This work was undertaken by benevolent people. » (Ecole de filles – 3, place de l’Abbé-Cordier). Le Spectateur of 31st October stipulated that « women from a better world bestowed with tireless devotion set about serving these people, giving out hygienic drinks: tea or milk during winter, beer, lemonade or coconut in summer. » The centre was open from 5pm to 8pm and welcomed some 150 soldiers every evening in December 1915.

The administration of the centre was run by the « Pour l’Abri du Soldat » (« Soldiers’ Shelter ») committee, of which the treasurer was Madame Couturier, teacher at the Collège de Jeunes Filles (Young Girls’ College). It functioned thanks to donations which allowed the services for soldiers to be financed. However, in July 1915, Madame Couturier called on the municipal council to help with the consequential gas expenses which came about from the lighting of the room and the warming of drinks. Aware of the usefulness of such a scheme, the council decided to pay the 11,230 francs requested and to grant them freely. At the end of the year, victim of its own success, the Foyer had to appeal to generous donors via the press.

These initiatives, which were developed throughout the country, allowed soldiers to maintain a social link. Who better than a ‘comrade’ to understand what they had suffered on the battle field, or the removal and loneliness felt when they found themselves far from their loved ones? The Foyers au Soldat also offered entertainment, like this artistic and literary performance organised for the 1915 Christmas celebrations, which allowed a number of artists and soldiers in garrison in Langres to mix.

Foyer du soldat

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