Pomeroy Washington Downtown
National Historic District
April 26, 1919
Lieutenant Goyat, of Missiriac, Morbihan, France, who saw some of the heaviest fighting in the world war and was wounded and made aprisoner by the Germans, has been keeping the Rebekah lodge of Pomeroy informed on the whereabouts and condition of a little French boy for whose support the lodge has been making contributions.
Mrs. E. W. Dickson, the lodge secretary, in a letter written some months ago, asked the Lieutenant to write some of his war experiences. Responding to their request, Lieutenant Goyat sends the following, which is written in French.
The translation is by Mrs. J. Bourdon and Miss Florine Bourdon.
I read to Mrs. Serazin the two letters which concerned her, but waited a while before answering, expecting the packages would arrive any day from America. But so far none have arrived. It is possible that they will arrive some day and that little Lucien and Alexander will be happier for having waited so long. To lessen the impatience of the children they tell them that America is very far away and that it takes a long time to make the trip.
Mrs. Serazin would like very much to have a picture taken of her two children but it is so difficult for her to find a photographer in the neighborhood. Many quit their professions during the war because very few people had photographs taken, and chemicals are very high. She would be happy if she could send a picture to your "Rebekah Club."
Today I shall answer the letter you wrote me.. Excuse me for not writing in English, but I am afraid I would make too many mistakes, and I might not express myself clearly. Also, the translation of my letter in the East Washingtonian was very accurate and encouraged me to write again in French.
I have not spoken English since the brave American soldiers left Malestroit (Morbihan) to return home. Several of them were from San Francisco.
Many American soldiers are still in the part of France in which I live. There are two large camps near here, Meucon and Coetquindan. The first is about thirty kilometers from my home and the second about twenty.
The camp of Meucon is well known. It is strongly built. The organization and convenience of this camp is much admired by the neighboring population. I expect to visit this camp soon but I do not travel much since my return to France, Nov. 30, 1918.
I found my wife sick in bed. She has had heart trouble since 1915—of a nervous origin. The ravages of the war were very hard on her.
The 23rd of August 1914 the French were retreating and the great part of the wounded fell into the hands of the Germans. My wife was two months without any news from me. Several of my soldiers said that I had been killed. She received a letter from me the last of Oct., written the day after I was wounded, and also a note from the Red Cross at Geneve, announcing that I was a prisoner in Germany. But the two long months of waiting had been too painful for her, and her heart trouble became worse. She grieved very much during my imprisonment. She was always afraid that I was suffering from lack of food or from ill treatment.
The llth of October she took influenza and has hardly left her bed since. We hope that bad luck will leave us some day, truly we have had little opportunity since the second of August, 1914.
The war is ended and we continue to suffer but we will not despair.
I had a two-months furlough—December and January—I went back to my regiment for 15 days and received another furlough for a month and a half.
I will be discharged the last of March so I will be home for good.
Before I go back to the profession which I followed before the war, I shall have a splinter removed from my hip which has been there since the 22nd of August 1914. A bullet had gone through my thigh-bone.
In a few weeks I shall begin teaching French—-arithmetic, science, history and geography, to the little children of Missiriac. I will not find the same pupils which I had in 1914. Many have quit school for they have grown up.
I notice that I am rambling and that I had better tell you of what saw during the war. I will tell you of my encounter with the Germans and of my impressions of the ravages of the war.
The Germans occupied the little Belgian village of Maissin, which they were defending. My army corps was ordered to drive them from the village. Upon arriving in the village the Germans began to set fire to the houses.
Before commencing the battle we found ourselves before a village in flames. It was our first vision of war. After several hours of fighting I reached the village. We were the first, but it was still full of Germans. I assembled the soldiers that I had left and we dashed into a street. Arrived, we saw Germans all about waiting for us. I received a bullet wound in my right hip. Many of my men were killed, the rest kept fighting. I fell to the pavement, as I couldn't walk. In the evening some Belgians carried me to a house which was still standing.
The next day the Germans took the village again and I was made a prisoner.
I must say that the German doctors lost no time in coming to the house where I was, and that all necessary care, was given to the wounded.
Outside, the Germans continued to destroy what had escaped the first day They pretended that the civilian population had fired upon them. Several Belgians were crucified. A young girl, who was taking care of us, told us in tears of the German atrocities committed against the members of her family. Her aged father had been shot through a window, as he was standing beside the fireplace. Her brother, a young Catholic priest, had been shot as he crossed the street, and her sister, aged 15 years, had been wronged. We turned cold as we listened to these horrors, but being wounded we could do no more than the young girl—reproach the Germans who came about us for their barbaric crimes.
They did not seem to comprehend our indignation, but tranquilly answered, "It is war." How many times I have heard that expression from the 'Boche'!
We all dreaded the moment when we should have to shoot at a man for the first time. But to defend our country and win the war we had to be somewhat violent and forget some of our sentiments.
We were truly peaceful in 1914. France and Germany started the war with entirely different motives.
I shall close this letter, which is no doubt longer than interesting.
With the best wishes to you dear madame,
Missiriac, Morbihan, France.
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