THE EXECUTION AT GUISE
The incident concerns 11 British soldiers (five Connaught Rangers, five Royal Munster Fusiliers and one 15th The King’s Hussars) who, in August 1914, were cut off in the retreat from Mons to the Marne. The Munsters and the King’s Hussar were left behind at Etreux; the Connaughts at Le Grand Fayt. Some appear to have been captured by the Germans and later escaped; others hid in the woods in this part of the Aisne. They lived off the land for a few weeks before meeting a Frenchman, M. Chalandre, near the village of Iron. Chalandre agreed to shelter them. In this task he was aided by the Logez family, who owned a mill in Iron. The soldiers were housed and fed in the Chalandre family home, and in Logez’s mill.
The Germans were aware of the presence of British soldiers behind their lines and issued repeated appeals and warnings demanding that they surrender, or be given up. Otherwise those who disobeyed would be executed. Chalandre, Logez and the British soldiers ignored these. Their presence in Iron appears to have been an open secret. In retrospect it was a recipe for the disaster which later unfolded.
The soldiers, together with Chalandre and Logez, were betrayed by one Louis Bachelet, a 66-year -old who lived in the village. The circumstances which led to his treachery are as follows. Chalandre had a 16-year-old son called Clovis. In the village there lived a married woman called Blanche Marechal who bestowed her personal favours on both Bachelet and Clovis. She also entertained German soldiers. Clovis told Blanche about the British soldiers hidden by his and the Logez family. She in turn passed on the information to her husband who began talking about the soldiers in a very indiscreet manner. One way or another Bachelet found out about the British soldiers.
Clovis was consumed with jealousy by Blanche’s affair with Bachelet. On the 21 February 1915 he threw stones at Bachelet’s windows. Bachelet shouted that he would denounce Clovis, his family and the English soldiers, and that they would all be shot. He was as good as his word. The next day Bachelet arrived at the chateau in Guise, the local HQ for the occupying German army and told the German Commandant, Waechter, about the British soldiers. Bachelet led Waechter and two lorry-loads of troops directly to Chalandre’s house.
Chalandre was arrested in his courtyard. The British troops surrendered. The British soldiers were bound together in twos and kicked, prodded with swords and beaten into the lorries. The rest of the village was rounded up and forced to watch as Chalandre’s house was torched. After a summary trial in the Chateau at Guise the soldiers, and M. Chalandre, were executed in the grounds of the Chateau on the morning of 25 February 1915. M. Logez was spared on grounds of mental incapacity (he suffered a stroke), but died shortly afterwards. The Germans returned later to burn down the Logez mill and farm.
Severe penalties were meted out to the remaining members of both families. The adults and older children of both families were jailed in Germany for periods of between two and four years. Their children were left to fend for themselves and were taken in by villagers. Clovis died insane shortly after the end of the war; his two sisters followed him to the grave shortly afterwards. Madame Chalandre died in 1919. All the deaths in the Chalandre family were undoubtedly related to the reprisals they suffered for sheltering the British soldiers.
Researched by Hedley Malloch.
|2009 RMFA-Royal Munster Fusiliers Association.|