Etobon Project Blog - Journal posts are listed below
The Etobon Project

Summer 1939

Around mid-June 1939, I received notification from the Valenciennes recruitment office that I was to be called up for the reserves from July 23 to August 6. I had to report to the Infantry Mobilization Center Number 12 at the Joan of Arc Institute before 11 a.m.

Sunday, July 23, I met several friends from the surrounding villages at the Lourches train station. They were headed to the same place for the same reason. The train ride via Somain and Douai was uneventful and the train arrived on time. Registration was held in the school classrooms, called the Joan of Arc Institute, where the floor was covered with straw and a few blankets, and was a mess. After registering, the medical exam and getting outfitted, the days were busy with receiving equipment and supplies. Then we had to learn everything the officers wanted to teach us.

The 33rd Infantry Regiment, which had been disbanded at the end of the First World War, has now been revived. We belong to the 3rd battalion under Commander Vigreux, an active duty senior officer, 10th Company, commanded by Reserve Captain Cornet.

Early on, we assembled to form the company, sections and groups. We were presented with the 33rd IR flag and we marched through town to the war memorial. We presented arms. The officers laid a wreath at the memorial. The ceremony ended and we returned to quarters.

Friday, July 28, we left on the train for Valenciennes, where we were quartered at the Vincent barracks. Sunday, July 30, at around 10 a.m., there was a large parade made up of several units through the streets of the city. I didn’t mind that I was excused from the parade.

Tuesday, August 1, we went to Buridan the same way, that is, by train. In the meantime, exercises and maneuvers filled up the week.

Sunday, August 6, Commander Vigreux assembled us in the school courtyard to bid us farewell and thank us for our good conduct during this very uncertain time. His speech ended with the words, “I’m not saying goodbye, but farewell, because in light of the current situation I wouldn’t be surprised if we met again very soon.” Monday, August 8, we resumed civilian life, worried about the madman in Nuremberg.


September 1939

At noon on September 1, a  Friday, the TSF radio, tuned into Radio Luxembourg, announced that the French government had ordered a general mobilization and declared war against Germany.

Around noon on Saturday, September 2, along with a friend, I took the train from the Denain-Mines station to Béthune, where I arrived in the evening. We’re at the same school, with fresh straw. I unpacked and found the others that I’d just left not so long ago. We caught up with the news. Mustering in, uniforms, etc. The 10th Company is still commanded by Captain Cornet, a “kind and distinguished person.”

Saturday, September 9, we left on a passenger train from the Béthune station. We flew by the Lourches station and arrived at Arleux, where we disembarked. We walked to Estrées, an agricultural community, where we were bivouacked on farms.

Tuesday, September 12, we left on foot at night and arrived at Lallaing the morning of the 13th. That afternoon, we left Lallaing for Coutiches, about 4 km away. We were housed in a school across from the town hall. We enjoyed our short stay in this very nice town.

Saturday, September 30, we left Coutiches around 10 p.m. and arrived at Hasnon the morning of October 1. We walked through a pouring rain the entire distance. We were housed in the community room. That evening, we left again, still on foot, for Aulnoy-les-Valenciennes, where we arrived the morning of Monday October 2. We enjoyed our stay because we were housed with some good people whose two sons were in the East. I did my best to thank them appropriately.


Autumn 1939

Wednesday, October 4, we left Aulnoy in the morning and arrived at Estreux in the afternoon. We are staying on farms. We worked for two months (anti-tank trenches, barbed wire and all kinds of maneuvers and exercises.) We witnessed an explosion caused by an anti-tank mine, which happened about 1.5 km as the crow flies from our position. Lots of emotion. It’s near a blockhouse occupied by the 54th infantry, which lost some of its young soldiers.

In the afternoon of Wednesday, December 6, we left Estreux for the small train station at Valenciennes. We loaded supplies, vehicles, machine guns, 25mm guns, etc., onto platform cars. The men travelled on covered cars with straw bedding. Destination: the East. After a few stops to eat and warm up (it was chilly on the train), we arrived at Thiaucourt (Meurthe-et-Moselle). After about an hour’s travel between Thiaucourt and Jaulny (in the woods) we started walking again to get to Jouy aux Arches early in the morning. In the afternoon we crossed the bridge over the Moselle that connects Jouy aux Arches with Ars sur Moselle, where we ate in a little restaurant: a little break, please. That evening, we stayed in our barn at Jouy aux Arches. Most of the men are iron miners. There’s a viaduct above Arches for the iron tubs, which most likely feeds the Longwy steel mills.


Autumn - Winter 1939

Saturday, December 9 as we were leaving at about 7 p.m., the artilleryman Eduoard Dubrulle fired a shot into his left knee. Immediately alerted, the surgeon and officers took the necessary measures. The wounded man was evacuated and the gun and shells were sealed. The mystery of this accident shocked us. Later, I had to appear before the MPs at Audun le Roman as a witness. The surgeon did too. After we returned to Jouy, he invited me to eat with him at the restaurant as his guest. He insisted. He even demanded that I sit with him in 2nd class. Being the guest of a surgeon, who worked at the Somain hospital in civilian life, was a nice memory. Lieutenant Derosme was a charming guy. Thanks, Doc. Later, we found out that charges were dismissed against the wounded man. No court-martial or indemnity for this soldier from Bruay les Béthune.

Let’s go back to Saturday evening, December 9. We left Jouy and arrived in Montigny les Metz at 2 a.m. We are housed in a barracks (Colin area). Around noon, with a few friends, we took the tram to the center of Metz, about 2 km from the barracks. We went to a restaurant and had a nice time stuffing our faces to forget the rations on the train and the accident that happened the previous night.


December 1939

Monday, December 11. Left Colligny in the evening and arrived at Edling at noon the next day. We are going into the Maginot Line area and Edling is where one of the most important installations is. During our stay, King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited. Written on the front of the big blockhouse is “Sleep peacefully, France. Your children are keeping watch.” 

During the visit of the French and British leaders, we were sent to Herstroff where the company’s headquarters were. We slept twelve to a house in Edling, the population having been evacuated at the start of hostilities, which let us take over the houses and do our own cooking. Strict orders were given to respect the owners’ possessions. We did.

I found a visiting card with the name of  “Josef Jugman – Cabinetmaker.” On a wall in the dining room was a large photo of the father in a German army uniform (WWI) and a similar one of the son in the uniform of the Metz 146th Infantry Regiment. Amazing!