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VICTORY CELEBRATIONS PARIS


In France a colossal Cenotaph for the War Dead designed for the great Bastille Day parade in July 1919 following the signing of the Peace Treaty was subjected to scathing attack. Although its principal designer Andre Mare had served in the war he found his gilded monument denounced as a national embarrassment. The four Victories on the sides of the catafalque, each one backed by a pair of real wings from French military aircraft, seem unexceptional today. But several critics attacked the monument as it approached completion on a sensitive site beneath the Arc de Triomphe. The final blow was delivered by Prime Minister Clemenceau, who declared with characteristic bluntness that it was 'ignoble' and then, according to Le Pays, 'spoke of "Boche art" of "Munich inspiration". Finally he gave the order to demolish it.


Note the tomb at the top of the catafalque the crowd at its base gives an indication of its size

To Clemenceau's credit the Parade which marked the official French victory celebrations, unlike its more celebratory version in Britain, was led by wounded soldiers. Many other nations would have refused to allow such grievously deformed figures to head a procession through the capital's main thoroughfares. But on 14 July 1919, a group of maimed and blinded mutiles de guerre - a fraction of the terrible total of four-and-a-quarter million Frenchmen wounded in the war - openly displayed their suffering to the accompaniment of the Marseillaise. It was, perhaps, a therapeutic experience for the men involved, who found themselves continually blessed and feted by the crowds. Their deformities were recorded with clumsy frankness by Jean Galtier-Boissiere, in an image which makes no attempt to disguise the soldiers' anguish.

It gradually became obvious to some doctors that that some men at the front were suffering from non-physical injuries from what became know as shell-shock.

Some doctors argued that the only cure for shell-shock was a complete rest away from the fighting. Officer were likely to be sent back home to recuperate but the army was less sympathetic to ordinary soldiers with shell-shock. Some senior officers took the view that these men were cowards who were trying to get out of fighting.

Between 1914 and 1918 the British Army identified 80,000 men (2% of those who saw active service) as suffering from shell-shock. many more soldiers with these symptoms were classified as 'malingerers' and sent back to the front-line. Some these committed suicide; some broke down under the pressure and refused to obey the orders, some deserted. Sometimes soldiers who disobeyed orders were shot on the spot, some were court-martialled. 304 British soldiers were executed.