Wednesday, July 6, 2022

In the Forest

Guillaume couldn't help but notice that one of the men was always behind him, he felt like he was being kept under constant watch. He understood why, but it frightened him. As they went deeper into the forest, he realized that these people could just kill him out of hand. So he tried very hard to do what they asked and tried to appear nonchalant about the whole thing.

The man leading the group raised a hand as they approached what appeared to be a clearing of some sort ahead. Everyone went down to one knee, including Guillaume. The man behind him nodded, this fellow they'd found wandering the forest had good instincts, he thought. Perhaps he is a soldier after all.

The leader gestured again and the party approached a clearing, within which stood a small hut. Guillaume thought it looked like a forester's shack, a place to stay while guarding against poachers. Two of the men and one of the women took up positions where they could watch the approaches to the clearing. The others entered the shack, save for Guillaume who was left outside with his "minder."

"Care for a smoke, clochard¹?" the man asked, offering a packet of Gauloises.

"Merci." was all Guillaume said as he reached for the offered pack. The man then lit his own cigarette then offered the lighter to Guillaume. After lighting his cigarette, Guillaume handed the lighter back, he had noticed that the lighter had the crest of the 15th Motorized Infantry Regiment.

"Soldier?" he asked the man.

"Certainement, when Juin surrendered the division, some of us escaped in all of the confusion. The Boches had so many prisoners they couldn't possibly keep track of all of us. Myself and René, one of the men on sentry duty, were in the same company. We had just returned from leave so we still had our civilian clothing with us. Dumped the uniforms and blended into the populace. It was a scary few weeks, that I can tell you. Where have you been?"

"I was put on a train to Germany. Just this side of the German border they paroled all of the enlisted men below the rank of sergeant. I went to my cousin's in Reims, she provided me with everything I have, including food. Which was nearly gone when I stumbled into those two Boche on the road. Then you lot came along and voilà, here I am. Am I a prisoner?"

"That depends on the captain." the man said mysteriously.

Guillaume raised an eyebrow at that, then with a Gallic shrug accepted the fact that his fate was entirely in these peoples' hands.

"What is your assessment of the man, Pierre?" Capitaine Duroc, (not his real name but a nom de guerre) sat in the room's sole chair, smoking a pipe. He wore the uniform of a French infantry officer, which he had been until his unit had been destroyed near Stonne. The uniform was starting to show more than a little wear and tear, but he was reluctant to take it off. It was his sole connection to his old life, the life of a professional soldier.

"I saw him stab the German after being shoved. the fury in the man's face was obvious. I think he has seen much and been kept from fighting back. He finally blew up. But I'm not quite ready to trust him." Pierre shrugged, as if to say, it's not my decision, but ...

"Bring him in." Duroc ordered.

Guillaume stepped into the dimly lit hut, it took him a moment for his eyes to adjust. When they did, he saw a small table with a man sitting behind it. A man in uniform. He also noticed the man's kepi on the table, so he did as he had been taught.

"Caporal Guillaume Micheaux, 142e Régiment d'Infanterie, 8e Division d'Infanterie se présentant au service Monsieur!²" He snapped a salute as he barked out the phrase.

"At ease, Corporal. Now tell me, are you ready to sacrifice all for la patrie³?"

Guillaume hesitated for a second, then answered, "Honestly Sir, I don't know. I don't think any man can answer that until the moment comes, then you either give your all, or you run."

Duroc nodded, "A good answer Corporal, a safe answer. But you are correct. Did your unit see any fighting in the spring?"

"No sir, our officers ..." he stopped, realizing that he was on dangerous ground, then he realized that being honest was the best way to go, "Our officers were mostly reservists, they weren't ready for the speed and the shock of the German attack. Honestly sir, we fell apart."

Duroc nodded and sighed, "Your unit wasn't the only one to collapse after the first blow. We, as a nation, weren't ready. But those men and women outside, they are now ready. But are you?"

"I don't know Sir."

"But you killed that German on the road."

Guillaume looked at the floor, "He angered me, I decided that I wasn't going to be bullied by the Germans anymore. It was a moment of anger, I don't know if I could do that on command."

"Yet you were in the Army."

"Yes sir, I was but ..."

"But what Corporal? Were you discharged by the army?" As he said that, Duroc pulled his pay book from his tunic and slapped it down on the table, standing as he did so. "Look at that, READ IT!"

Guillaume picked up Duroc's pay book, there he saw the man's picture and his real name, Etienne-Marie-Sainte-Cloud Desaix. His unit was the 1st Battalion of the 67th Infantry, which had been practically wiped out at Stonne in May.

"I understand, mon Capitaine. If you wish to hold me to my oath, I will obey. I am a soldier."

"So you accept me as your superior, as your commanding officer?"

"Oui, mon Capitaine. Jusqu'à la mort!⁴

"We shall see, Corporal. We shall see."

¹ Tramp (French)
² Corporal Guillaume Micheaux, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division reporting for duty Sir. (French)
³ The fatherland (French)
⁴ Yes, my Captain. Until death! (French)


  1. How many know what they will do when the bullets fly? Resistance cells have to watch out for infiltration or having a new recruit screw up. The corporal is getting fleshed out Sarge.

    1. He, and the people he's now with, are in a sticky situation. Who do you trust?

    2. NONE know how they will perform under fire. Training and discipline count for a lot, but how, honestly can anybody know? Anger and shame are two powerful motivators, though.
      Even those who have seen the elephant may break at some point.
      Boat Guy

  2. Why Duroc? Durocs are quite mild mannered.

    1. Desaix takes his nom-de-guerre from the French general Géraud Christophe Michel Duroc, who was a friend of the Emperor. Desaix was another French general of the Revolution, Louis Charles Antoine Desaix, Capitaine Desaix is a distant relative of that general.

    2. Ah! I shall not dispute the knowledge of one who knows as much as you do, of the Napoleonic Era. Thank you for increasing my knowledge!
      Naming himself after a bacon pig seemed unlikely.

    3. Which should have been your first clue ...

    4. StB, I have it on reliable authority that his considerable knowledge of the Napoleonic Era is first hand.
      Just sayin'.

  3. Reminds me of a movie I watched, once. "Never give up, Never Surrender!"

    Ok, maybe more than once...This week....

    The story is proceeding quite nicely, Sarge, keep up the good work.

  4. I know virtually nothing about the French Resistance. Fortunately I know Sarge, so by default I will now know more.

    Well written Sarge. I am interested to see how Guillaume does.

    1. Guillaume wanted to fight for his country in the army, that was denied to him by circumstance. Now let's see if he really wants to fight for his country. As a partisan things are much more dangerous, little support and the very real possibility of being captured and shot out of hand, which is somewhat legal according to the laws of war. (In later years the partisans wore armbands as a sort of uniform, while it then became somewhat illegal to shoot them, it still happened.)

    2. Given the Gestapo treatment of captives "shot out of hand" doesn't sound too bad.

    3. Yep, getting tortured, and then killed, is not good.

    4. To be avoided, certainment'

  5. Occupied France in 1940, tough times over the next 5 years

  6. Sarge is not "making up stories" but bringing history to a personal, understandable level using mostly fictional characters immersed in a sea of factual events.
    I still think his stuff is on a par with Shaara's Killer Angels, and that is pretty damn fine stuff.
    Extra ration of rum for your Muse, if you please.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Oh dear Lord, don't let her into the rum again ...

  7. No one really knows their future. Hopes, intents, desires, somewhat; behavior ..e not so much. I've surprised myself (and others), both ways, more than once. Hero and coward, both. More likely to stand up for others others than for myself, if memory serves.

    1. You have to know when to fight, and when to run. So to speak.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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