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Le Bombardement de la cathédrale de Reims...

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Le Bombardement de la cathédrale de Reims…
The bombardment of Reims cathedral. The admirable gesture of French women
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1914
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 11 from the series La Grande Guerre .

On 20 September the Germans reached Reims, only eighty miles from Paris. France, Belgium and Britain had slowed down the German advancement towards Paris but had failed to stop it altogether. Parts of Reims cathedral were severely damaged under shellfire. Fire spread throughout the wooden structures and melted the lead on the roof. Images of the ruined building featured prominently in French propaganda.

Observing the women are two French cuirassiers wearing their distinctive helmets with long black horsehair manes. They were the only cavalry regiment to go to war in 1914 wearing the heavy, old-fashioned cuirasses.

The French caption with English translation:

L’univers entier a frémi d’indignation en apprenant que la horde des barbares Germains bombardait ce joyau séculaire qu’était la cathédrale de Reims. A quelques kilomètres de Reims et au moment où les batteries allemandes braquaient [sic] leurs canons sur la cathédrale, on eut pu voir les femmes françaises recueillir et soigner les blessés Allemands, elles le faisaient avec autant de dévouement que s’il s’était agi des nôtres. N’est ce pas là le plus bel éloge que l’on puisse faire de la grandeur d’âme de peuple français.

The bombardment of Reims cathedral. The admirable gesture of French women
The entire universe trembled with indignation on hearing that the horde of barbarian Germans bombed this ancient landmark that was the cathedral of Reims. A few kilometres from Reims and at the moment when the German batteries turned their guns on the cathedral, we saw the French women collect and care for wounded Germans. They did so with as much devotion as if they were acting for our own men. Is it not the most beautiful elegy that we can make of the magnanimity of the French people?


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