I apologise that during the General Election I missed three centenaries of war poets. These will now appear on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Louis Pergaud was born on the 22 January 1882 in Belmont, in the Doubs department, of the Franche-Compte Region of France. His father was a school master, and Louis excelled at school earning scholarships which enabled him to continue at school completing his studies at the École Normale in Besançon.
He married his first wife in 1903 after completing a year of military service and resumed teaching as Durnes which he had done for a year before carrying out his year in the 35th Infantry. In 1905 he transferred to Landresse and took his wife with him, but he left both in 1907 and headed to Paris. Here he joined fellow poet, long-time friend and inspiration Leon Deubel hoping to achieve his literary dream.
Before he had left for Paris he had published the first of his two collections of poetry, L'Aube was published in 1904. A second collection L'Herbe d'Anvil followed in 1908. In 1910 his first selection of short stories De Goupil à Margot was published, a second collection La Revanche du Corbeau followed the following year.
However, it was his first novel La Guerre des boutons (1912) in which a play war between small boys in two neighbouring villages, in which the losers have their bottons removed as trophies before being sent home, is the most reflective of the years to come. It becomes more sinister as time goes by and the distinction of play and real violence between the boys becomes more blurred. He published a second novel Le Roman de Miraut in 1913.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 the pacifist writer was conscripted into the French army having been placed on the active reserve list following his national service 12 years before. Thus he was involved in the Battle of Lorraine during the German invasion of his homeland France and subsequently on the Western Front. On the 7th April 1915 his regiment attacked German lines near Fresnes-en-Woëvre, Lorraine. He was shot and wounded and fell on barbed wire becoming trapped. Several hours later German soldiers rescued him and other surviving wounded and he was transported to a field hospital behind the German lines. The morning after he was wounded and rescued a French artillery barrage destroyed the hospital killing Pergaud and others.
His novel La Guerre des boutons remains on the French High School Curriculum, has been filmed five times four of them French (1936, 1962, 2011 twice) and once Irish (1994) with the villages revisited as Ballydowse and Carrickdowse. The French versions make it against the backdrop of the Algerian War in 1936 and one of the 2011 versions in occupied France during WWII.
Louis Pergaud 22 January 1882 Belmont, Doubs, France - 8 April 1915 near Fresnes-en-Woëvre, Lorraine, FranceSee also: The other poets who died in the war.