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Above: "Missing, presumed dead"


"At Verdun the ones who have suffered the most are the wounded and, along with them, the stretcher-bearers who transport them. Some of the bearers carry them from the front lines all the way to our post (1.5 kilometers); other ones take them in order to carry them off to Fleury and, having arrived there, the wounded have almost another 2 kilometers to go by stretcher before they can be transported by car. Imagine such a trip under the shells which hardly ever stop, through a landscape full of shell holes, tree trunks, and wrecked wire, through deep mud and, in certain areas, through clay where the stretcher-bearers sink down all the way to their waists, being forced to call for help to get themselves out of difficulty..."

A letter from a soldier of the 4th Infantry Regiment, November 1916.

Armand Antoine Detrus was born on the 14th of September 1876 in Lyon. He was a member of the 9e Cie of the 110e Regiment d’Infanterie Territoriale.  

The citation for his Croix de Guerre (left) reads: 

 “An excellent soldier who served at the front since October 1914. He always showed much courage and devotion. He died gloriously on the field of battle at Verdun while helping evacuate the wounded on the night of the 8-9th of June 1916”

The 110th Territorial regiment arrived at Verdun in Mid May of 1916 and left for the Argonne in mid June.  

The regiment was quartered in the town itself and was not used as a fighting unit. This does not mean that they were not in the thick of the fighting.  


On the 22nd of May the regiment suffered 70 casualties as they supported the French attempt to retake Douaumont. The men of the regiment spend long and dangerous nights as they crossed through German artillery fire bringing rations and ammunition forward, and returning with the wounded. They were also sent forward to work on field positions.   The fate of the wounded on a battlefield which was constantly under artillery fire can only be imagined in our day and age.  


Captain Albert Garnier, a French officer in the 52 I.D. wrote of the fate of those who lay waiting for evacuation...

“On my reconnaissance today I found four poor wretches with smashed legs. For two days they had been laying there wasting away, wracked with fever. They lay a few meters from each other, talking back and forth, keeping each others morale up, all hoping to be brought back to safety.
They begged me to arrange transport for them and I solemnly promised to send the stretcher bearers to come pick them up. I did not have the heart to tell them that the stretcher bearers were 20 meters away, dead. I had promised to report their position which I did as soon as I had the chance. I have no idea if they were found."

The standard Medaille Militaire award document for soldiers killed in action

As the Germans pushed southwards from Douaumont in the last days of May the men of the 110th were sent forward to help build positions in and around Fort Souville   The regiment’s losses were competitively small, but constant. Every night the 10-20 men would die or get wounded on the way through the valleys to the front.  

Fort Vaux had fallen on the 7th of June and a French counter attack had failed to retake it. As the fighting raged on the men of the 110e. R.I.T. crossed through the barrages to evacuate the wounded.  

Artillery took a terrible toll, a French doctor wrote…  

"The bloody bandages are dropped on the floor, we have no time to dispose of them. They form a carpet which is ankle high.

An artilleryman is brought in, he is in terrible condition. His wounds are horrible, he has bled a lot, his face like white marble. Both his legs are smashed, attached with just a few strands of meat and sinew, he is still bleeding heavily. While he is being given a morphine injection a doctor examines him. The splintered bones stick in all directions, the wound is full of strands of flesh along with remains of his trousers and underwear. Carefully we try and bandage the wounds. This means moving the leg, causing a fountain of blood to shoot out, soaking the doctor. The poor man lets out a low moan and dies, it happens so fast we are not prepared for it, we almost don't notice.  

New screaming at the entrance, this time a wounded man with a chest full of bullet holes, all bleeding badly. He is quickly bandaged and gets a morphine injection. he is sent into a deep sleep with ether...then he is then carried out...



Big black patches on the ground mark the places where the stretchers stand before the wounded are carried into the surgery. Leaning against the wall are the empty stretchers, their canvas covers are stained black with crusts of blood.  

The bearers stand around with haggard faces, tortured looks, as if sentenced to death.  

Behind the barn the sight is terrible. Wounded who had died on the way or during bandaging have been pushed aside to make way for those who are still living.  

There they lay, piled up one upon each other, open torsos, missing limbs, it is terrible to see. The faces carry grimaces of anger, pain or desperation and the bodies lay in grotesque positions.  

On a ground lay the remains of a captain, just three ribs and half a face wrapped in a tunic.  

Next to it lays a similar package with a paper name tag.  

The pile of bloody corpses is the stuff nightmares are made of. At night the rats add to the horror, eating away the faces and eyes, leaving bloody skulls staring out of empty sockets.  

Bury them? There are simply too many!  We have to live amongst them, eat amongst them and sleep amongst them...."

On the 9th of June 1916 Armand Antoine Detrus joined the ranks of the dead. On that day the regiment lost 2 men killed and 4 wounded.


Like many soldiers killed by artillery somewhere on the slopes and in the ravines near Verdun , his body was never found. Studying the events and the sector were he was listed as being killed in, it seems they were taking wounded from the Fort Vaux sector, down the slopes to Eix or Belrupt. It was while returning from the front lines with the wounded that they were hit bay German artillery.




Left: A letter of sympathy from the major of Lyon

A document confirming his name is engraved on a stone in the Ossuaire at Verdun.



Right: The document for the Verdun medal


The engraved stone with Armand Detrus's name in the monument for the dead at Verdun.
 
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