First World War - mail from the front lines - page 2


Following of the excerpts from mail received at the Carmel of Lisieux

from soldiers of the First World War


Dumortier, Alfred / Sergeant 112e Infantry


July 1915 I was wounded on June 28 in the wood of G. at one hour in the morning by a French firecracker! There were barely 10 minutes I had invoked St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

I certainly owe to her heavenly protection to have been preserved from death because the firecracker exploded near me and I have no serious injury. The relic of the Little Flower I wear on my chest is
tinged with my blood.

I continue to put my full confidence in the power of the next new Holy Carmelite! I am always happy to read the life of the Little Flower of Carmel. My hobbies are used to live with her.

How, Revered Mother, do you deign to call me "Sergeant Sister Theresa"? To which inside feeling did you obey? I firmly believe that it was a feeling of heaven. Though unworthy of the title, I accept it as a chivalrous nickname. May my
celestial protectress help me to advance in the little way.

August 1916 I am so happy to be in Lisieux! Since I've been here (3 days) I am overwhelmed by the presence of my sister Theresa. I went to pray at her tomb. I also visited the Buissonnets. Goodbye!


Pasdeloup, Paul  / 26e Territorial

1915 27th May We’re here in R. near A. in Artois. Part of my Company is assigned to providing clean water to the lines where the active servicemen are sent. From 2 o’clock in the morning onwards, and during the day of the 26th, 967 shells fell in the village sector, and on the 27th, up to 11 o’clock in the morning, 559 shells, and they were of all calibre. It was terrifying: the number of deaths and injuries sustained is as yet unknown. Now, I didn’t place myself under Sister Thérèse’s protection just yesterday, and up until now I can say that she has willed to keep her little soldier. Yesterday evening during the bombing, I placed a picture of Sister Thérèse for all to see in the blockhouse where the comrades in my squadron are camped, praying to her with all my heart to keep us safe and protect us. I’m taking it upon myself to continue placing her picture in full view, and all the comrades have agreed to respect her, love her, and pray to her. How can I ever prove my gratitude to Sister Thérèse, for I take pleasure in paying tribute to her miraculous intervention: despite the bombings and various fatigue duties, not one man in my section has received a single scratch.

1915 11th June  In the blockhouse occupied by my squadron in the trenches, Sister Thérèse’s picture holds pride of place in the centre. Here, in the same way, we all respect your angelic little Sister, and we have faith in her “watch.” How did I discover Story of a Soul? I will admit to you that when I first read it, I found it very naive. I said to myself: Sister Thérèse was privileged, lifted high by a holy family. She didn’t know what real life was, or sin; her thoughts were always focused somewhere beyond the “world”. And then I considered things, and found that Sister Thérèse’s naivety was quite simply perfect surrender, and an immense act of love… I trust her! I’ll never stop asking her for graces to obtain material goods… but what I must ask of Sister Thérèse is to protect me, and return me after this horrific war to my loving family.

Piel, Maurice / Prisoner of war in Germany

1915  Concerning the pictures of Sister Thérèse, I didn’t have enough of them. Everyone is asking me for some, and I don’t have any more; I was cleaned out in five minutes.

Eudes, Julien / Sergeant 119e InfantryEudes

1915   Dear Protector, having alwaysbeen relied on you, you have never abandoned me, even in the most critical moments, and your protection I already got four times out of this horrible hell, each time with a simple injury. This only increases my confidence in you. I just ask you now to always give me, me and my brothers, as in the past, your holy protection, and that we meet as soon as possible by the end of this horrible war.

Tropet, L. / Captain

1916, August  I’m doing this a little late as we’ve just fought some very tough battles in the Somme, during which Sister Thérèse didn’t spare me her protection. In gratitude, I’m sending you today, through the post, the War Cross I earned in one of these last assaults. 

Rifflaud, Léon / Priest and stretcher bearer

1916  I’m taking the liberty of sending you a little offering for the beatification of little Sister Thérèse. I owe her a great deal and she protected me a lot during the terrible time we’ve just spent at the front in the Somme. How many times, as I pulled the cart carrying the wounded or gone for supplies along roads perpetually being bombed by large calibre shells, did I ask her: “Dear little Sister Thérèse, pray for me, protect me, save me.” And also, every evening, I would recite some Litanies I wrote in her honour. I’m taking the liberty of sending them to you, that you might place them, if possible, as a sign of praise and an insistent request for protection, in the cell where she surrendered her virginal soul to Jesus. May she please never forget me.

Gautier MarcelGautier, Marcel / lieutenant 3rd Company Infantry

1915 March  [After a few demoralizing unsuccessful attempts to dig a trench] Captain called me to his office and gave me this order: "Tonight at 20hr with 2 sergeants and 60 men under your command, you go to the infamous trench." I was not proud, some emotion seized me: will I succeed or will I fail my turn? During a few minutes of reflection, I asked Sister Thérèse to protect me and to accomplish my mission without incident. Then I had to climb the parapet of the trench and deploy my men over a length of 80 meters ... The bullets whistling every moment around us. I asked in a whisper if there was someone injured. Oh! happiness! the answer came to me: so far nobody had anything. My whole section was working hard in the trench. Three hours after the commissioned work was done, without the slightest injury for the soldiers. I would say that men were so happy they came to shake my hand, and their faces were all joy. I immediately thanked her Little Sister Thérèse visible protection. More than ever we need to pray and ask the intercession of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

Tomasetti, A. / Belgium Army

1916  It was with keen interest that I read the summary of the holy life of the Servant of God, Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve placed myself under her protection. May I hope you would be willing to send me a relic of our saint? I promise to carry it until I die… The brochures you sent me are being passed from hand to hand, and are going round the company. … I trust my little saint entirely.

1917, April We must take these children by the heart to bring them back onto the right path. Devotion to Sister Thérèse is so tender; she corresponds perfectly to our soldiers, even mine.

1917, October Our front is rather turbulent at times, but until now nothing unpleasant has ever happened to me, which I attribute to the protection of my little saint, to whom I never cease praying and whom I fully trust. I still carry a medallion and a relic, as do many of my fighting companions, and I must tell you that we’ve had practically zero losses in our unit.

P.D. unknown soldier (letter from Fr. Quentin, Curate at Notre Dame de Vincennes)

1916 I hasten to send you a 5 franc offering that an unknown soldier gave me in the Métro for you. Enclosed is the note accompanying the offering: “Father, I would be very grateful if you would send this offering to the Carmel of Lisieux in thanks for the protection from which I have hitherto benefitted and which I believe is due to little Sister Thérèse, P.D.

Malaval, L. / Sergeant

1916  I’m comforted to think that Sister Thérèse is willing to be my sister, a sister to my soul, a guide and a support. For me, this conviction is full of sweetness and encouragement. It gives me the great strength I need to bear the torments caused by the horrendous war. I entrust everything; physical sufferings, heartaches, material dangers, moral pitfalls, and family worries to the amiable saint, with the trust that a brother would place in a beloved sister. And I’m more than certain she’ll watch over all this with that tender goodness that shines forth from her life before and after her death, and which we can read in the features on her angelic face, and in the kind and attractive eyes that her photograph has left to us. Since I’ve had the holy joy of knowing Sister Thérèse, I feel better, I pray more, virtue appears easier to me, I hate evil more and I don’t want to do anything that might make me unworthy of my beloved sister’s gaze. I was surprised and moved to notice that if I happen to sin in any way, I reproach myself for it by thinking that Sister Thérèse must feel saddened by it.

Castan, François / Telephonist 194e brigadecastan

June 1916 [Me and my friends] we are all dedicated, privileged, advantaged of the Little Flower of Carmel of Lisieux we like to name in our language: "Holy hairy." We would like to introduce our little flower so charming, so delicious, so good, so powerful. We would be happy to distribute small pamphlets around us, images of all kinds, medals ...

Maréchal, Emile / Brigadier

1917  For two years now, Sister Thérèse’s writings have been my bedside reading; my breviary, if you will. With The Imitation of Christ, they make up all my wartime reading. Nothing can part me from her. She makes me feel the sensations of a child and I’m over 40 years old. I feel her constant protection and am not prone to feelings of gloomy sadness... Ah! Life is so beautiful in her company!

Henry, Georges / 1rst Marching Battalion

1917 November I dare to hope she won’t abandon me; this is what I ask her in my prayers. You wouldn’t believe how differently I view life now; I go into battle with faith and hope.

Gougeon, Henri / Soldier in the 6th colonial

1917, May   Your angelic little saint, Thérèse of the Child Jesus, protected me a great deal during the fighting in our last attack, chiefly on 16th April. In the morning, when the attack took place, and in the evening, under barrage fire, I particularly invoked her. She brings me calm and composure in times of peril. But the prayers I say to her are not much at all and besides, in the tough life we lead, we’re very short of time. The amount of fatigue we have to bear is enormous: offer it to Sister Thérèse for me. Ask her to give me a prayerful spirit, and union with God. Tell her to inspire me, help me, and save me. And if one day I must fall, may she, at the moment of my death, be there to prepare me for the sake of the trust I have in her and welcome me into heaven. My trust in her has only increased.

vie biographie

Atger, Jean-Charles / Caporal 111th Infantry Reg.

1915  I’m only a simple corporal, promoted under enemy fire, but I would like to be more, so that my rank would allow me to circulate the propaganda I’m using in my group on a wider scale. All my men have sewn the relic that works so many miracles onto their helmets. 50 feet from the German trenches, we have a post made up of two squadrons who relay each other every forty-eight hours. For four days, every squadron that occupied it suffered deaths and casualties. When it was our turn, I went there very calmly, placing all my confidence in God, and during those two dangerous days, my men and I prayed very fervently, reciting amongst other things little Sister Thérèse’s prayer. Well! Not a single bomb or grenade fell on us. We had scarcely left the post when the horrific hail of bullets resumed, raining down on those replacing us. Good Christians as we are, we all feel that a protection from above was extended to us. Often in the evenings, in the bivouac, we gather together to read a bit of the Life of Sister Thérèse, and it’s the best part of our day in this frightful torment. There’s no risk of someone interrupting our reading, and the noise of the cannon hardly bothers us. Several of my comrades have been pestering me for a medallion of our saint, and I’m enclosing their names, which they would happily sign a hundred times, as a token of their gratitude… (followed by twenty-three soldiers’ signatures.)

D’Elbée, François / Captain in the 83th Infantry Regimentd elbee

1915 June  I had often heard about Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus from my mother, who had a great devotion to her. I knew that at the beginning of the war, she had protected one of my brothers when in danger, so I longed to get to know her properly. A while ago, my wife sent me the small edition of her Life! This admirable book became my reading in the trenches. It opened my soul to the reality and wealth of spiritual life, and showed me that here below, the union of a soul with its God could be intimate and constant. In times of peril, I would reread a chapter of the little saint’s biography, and I would immediately regain my calm, faith, strength and courage… Sister Thérèse has become a great celestial friend for me and a beloved sister… I’ve removed from the volume the picture showing her on her deathbed, which I find captivating. It now adorns the paltry clay walls of my shelter. How many times the sight of her has comforted and strengthened me!

Bosschem, François / Brigadier 106th Heavy Artillery

1916  As in the past, I pray hard to your little saint. I myself call her “my protector Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus” and this name is constantly on my lips…

Brandi, Pacifico / Military Chaplain in the 6th Mountain Artillery

1916 Sister Thérèse is still my dear little sister; she is my help, inspiration and celestial guardian in my new mission as military chaplain. I also place my gunners under her protection… I can still hear the cannon thunder, but I never put the relic of Sister Thérèse down and it protects me. If I die, how joyfully will I join her and do good on earth!


LamielleLamielle, Henri / Sergeant 171 e Rég. d’Inf. Stretcher-Bearer

1915 On 27th September 1915, in the attack at Champagne, being a Corporal stretcher-bearer, my role was to rescue the wounded and have them transported to the regimental station 500 yds from the front line. For the duration of the 25th and 26th, I worked non-stop without any food, and the only thing sustaining me was remembering the little Sister. On the morning of the 27th, after a terrible night as there had been an attack the previous evening, I went to the front line to see about rescuing the wounded. I came to a crest battered with bullets and at that moment I felt my courage fail me. And then all of a sudden, the little Sister took me by the hand, and said to me very distinctly: “Come along now, my friend. There are souls to save and they’re waiting for you.” I looked up and what did I see? The little Sister. Thinking my mind was playing tricks on me, I crouched down on the ground and waited, but the call came again, more urgently. I stood up and after having said a prayer to God, without daring to look at who was accompanying me, I went over the top (at that moment, the enemy saw me but no bullet was fired). I reached several wounded men who were waiting for me, the first of which had a special devotion to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

1916 On 25th June 1916, my sergeant having been killed the previous day, I went up to replace him under the surgeon general in an extremely dangerous aid station. In the evening after a tiring day, we were informed that several soldiers were in front of the lines and that it was impossible to go and fetch them. When, at nightfall, I went with the sergeant general to the place indicated, there were several seriously wounded soldiers. As soon as they were bandaged-up, we had them transported behind the lines. Our task completed, we begun to retrace our steps back to the central aid station under a rain of iron and fire. Several of our stretcher-bearers were wounded. I took the lead, no longer knowing which way to go; there were Krauts everywhere! I pressed my crucifix against my heart and prepared myself for certain death, while around me, dead bodies were newly torn to shreds by shells. Then at that moment, my relic of Sister Thérèse joined my crucifix. I had an idea, what if I asked her to show me the way? Was I worthy to do so? Then I remembered what had happened on 27th September; would she help me? The thought had barely crossed my mind when I felt someone pulling me along by the hand. I looked to see who was leading me; there was nothing there. Pressing my crucifix and my relic against my heart, I whispered this prayer: “Sister Thérèse, protect us!” After having run across the perilous zone, we reached the aid station, and it was then that I saw the little Sister. She was unpetalling a bright red rose. Was it a dream? I don’t know, but the dear Saint was certainly there and it wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me. She had guided us. For several days, the perfume of newly blossomed roses lingered in the station. 

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