Some Great War Sites in Paris
(14th Arrondissement)

The 14th is home to Montparnasse Cemetery, one of the largest of the Paris cemeteries. Like the better known and more picturesque Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (see the entry for the 20th), it is the last resting place of many famous people, such as Sartre and Baudelaire. I had gone to find the tomb of the man who was President of France during the Great War, but it turned out to be that of Henri Poincaré, a mathematician (died 1912) rather than that of Raymond Poincaré.

However, I did find the tomb of Colonel Alfred Dreyfus. In 1894, Captain Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jew attached to the general staff, was court-martialled and convicted of espionage for passing secret documents to the Germans. Many public figures became convinced of Dreyfus's innocence, particularly after the publication in 1896 of Emile Zola's famous article "J'accuse". The French Army refused to admit its error, despite the absence of evidence. "L'Affaire", as it became known - and still is to this day - exposed deep divisions in the society of the Third Republic. These divisions included those between left and right, Protestants and Catholics, and the Army and civilians. L'Affaire was one of the key influences on the French Army and its relationship with society in the years before 1914. Dreyfus himself was in due course exonerated and reinstated, eventually becoming a colonel, and I believe served in the Great War.

Another military grave is that of sous-lieutenant Adolphe Pégoud, an aviator who was killed in aerial combat over Montreux-Chateau in Alsace on 31 August 1915. He was notable for his pre-war exploits when on 19 August 1913 he was one of the first pilots to parachute from an aeroplane. At one stage in 1913 he was credited with the first ever loop-the-loop in the world, though he later conceded this claim to the Russian pilot Nesterov.

Near Pégoud's grave I found the tomb of the Mangin Family. Although he is not buried here, the headstone gives a brief summary of General Mangin's career. It also lists all his familial military antecedents and contemporaries and where they are killed or buried. This shows that he was only the most successful member of a military family.

Copyright © Charles Fair, July, 1997.

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