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There was an incident in 1915 called the Souain Corporals Affair

incident in 1915 called the Souain Corporals Affair

Souain Corporals Affair

There was an incident in 1915 called the Souain Corporals Affair in which during a disastrous assault on a German held position French troops of the 21st Company of the 336th Infantry Regiment, whom had been mistakenly bombarded by their own artillery and then taken even more casualties by the undamaged German machine guns when they “went over the top,” refused to advance. The General in command, Géraud Réveilhac, ordered his artillery commander to fire on the offending company’s trench when he learned this. Fortunately, the artillery officer refused to do so without a written order which General Réveilhac didn’t give. But that wasn’t the end of the 21st Company’s tragic ordeal as the General ordered an immediate court martial and had the company captain draw up a list of names to be tried for cowardice and disobedience to their commanding officer. The trial was a show and all 24 men, including six corporals and 18 enlisted men, were found guilty. The court decided, however, to stay the executions of the enlisted men as their names had been chosen arbitrarily and two of the corporals had proven they had not heard the order to advance. The four remaining corporals were executed by firing squad. Here are their names and information:

Louis Victor François Girard, aged 28, born October 2, 1886, in Blainville, clockmaker, living in Paris, 17th arrondissement, married, one child
Lucien Auguste Pierre Raphaël Lechat, aged 23, born April 22, 1891, in Ferré, Ille-et-Vilaine, waiter in a cafe in Vitré, single
Louis Albert Lefoulon, aged 30, born August 17, 1884, in Condé-sur-Vire, Manche, railway worker, living with a partner, one child
Théophile Maupas, aged 40, born June 3, 1874, in Montgardon, Manche, worked in the town hall in Chefresne, married, two children.
These men were posthumously pardoned by the French Special Court of Justice in 1934 after years of the families’ hard work and petitions to exonerate their loved ones. One year after the incident, General Réveilhac was removed from command and suffered further disgrace and condemnation in 1921 when the affair was made public. His attempts to justify himself were censored by the Minister of War Louis Barthou.

In 1935, an anti-war novel inspired by the events was written by Humphrey Cobb. This novel inspired a film of the same name directed by Stanley Kubrick. The title of the novel and film is Paths of Glory.

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