You’ve Got (Century-Old) Mail: Soldier’s Note Is Echo of World War I Era

Mr. Jardy said that several pigeons were usually sent with the same message to ensure the missive reached its recipient. In this case, he added, the capsule probably slipped off the bird’s leg in flight.

The Linge museum, about eight miles west of Ingersheim, commemorates the history of one of the deadliest battles of World War I, waged on a hilltop known as the Linge in the Vosges mountain range in 1915. About 17,000 soldiers died, as German troops attempted to hold off the advance of the French Army toward the nearby city of Colmar.

With the help of a German friend, Mr. Jardy said that he had managed to decipher the handwriting and translate the message from an older form of German into modern French. Because the message refers to military drills, it would appear to have less historical value than records of real wartime conflict, he noted.

With so many battlefields of two world wars scattered across France, remnants and relics of the conflicts are often discovered, including physical signs on the landscape, like trenches and bunkers, and more personal items, such as shreds of clothing or ammunition.

In Maltot, northern France, a team of archaeologists is digging up and cataloging the physical remains of the Battle of Normandy, from World War II, down to pieces of shrapnel and the shreds of a dead soldier’s shoe.

Still, over a century after it was written, the age and excellent condition of the capsule found near Ingersheim stood out, Mr. Jardy said. Though his museum is closed for the winter, Mr. Jardy said he was planning to study the message further and would incorporate it into the memorial’s exhibits.

Alsace, in eastern France, was annexed to Germany in 1871 after the end of the Franco-Prussian War. The region was ceded to France after World War I under the Treaty of Versailles. During World War II, the forces of Nazi Germany occupied the area.

Aurelien Breeden reported from Paris, and Isabella Kwai from London.


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