France bids adieu as its last Great War hero is honoured

Discussion in 'World War I' started by syscom3, Mar 15, 2008.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    France bids adieu as its last Great War hero is honoured
    By James Mackenzie


    THE last surviving veteran of the First World War living in France, an Italian immigrant who fought in the trenches with the Foreign Legion, has died at the age of 110.

    Lazare Ponticelli, who joined his adopted country's army as a 16-year-old at the outbreak of the war with Germany in 1914, had attended a memorial ceremony as recently as November 2007.

    Following the death of 110-year-old Louis de Cazenave in January, Ponticelli was the last of the poilus (hairy ones), the nickname given to the unshaven troops who embodied French defiance in one of the bloodiest wars in the country's history.

    Ponticelli, who described war as "idiotic", had initially refused an offer of a state funeral made by the former president, Jacques Chirac, as it would be an insult to the men who had died without commemoration. He relented after Cazenave's death, saying he would accept a simple ceremony "in homage to my comrades".

    President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to Ponticelli and said a national commemoration of all of France's participants in the war would be held in the coming days. "I express today the profound emotion and infinite sadness of the whole of the nation at the death of Lazare Ponticelli, last survivor of the French combatants of the First World War," he said in a statement.

    Ponticelli's death severs the last living link with a conflict whose traces can still be seen on war memorials in nearly every town and village in France.

    In a war fought largely on their home soil, about 8.4 million French soldiers served and about 1.3 million were killed.

    Ninety years later, the Great War poilu in his sky-blue uniform still occupies a special place in the French imagination and Ponticelli's death led yesterday's news bulletins.

    Ponticelli was born into a poor family on 7 December, 1897, in the northern Italian town of Bettola and came to France as a 9-year-old, walking part of the way to save money. He worked as a chimney sweep and newspaper boy before enlisting in the Foreign Legion when war broke out, saying later it was "a way of thanking" the country that had fed him.

    The Times
    March 13, 2008
     
  2. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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  4. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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  6. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    :salute:
    I met a WWI vet in Vermont at a state veterans clinic back in 2004. He told me he was in the cavalry - the real cavalry not the "p***y air or mech cavalry!
     
  7. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Hard to imagine riding a horse into battle these days, isn't it?
     
  8. Célérité

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    We mustn't forget their story because it's also ours. Good bye and thank you Mr Ponticelli.
     
  9. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    :salute: Au revoir....
     

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  10. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Au revoir, M.Ponticelli.

    Merci, Rest well.
     
  12. Wurger

    Wurger Siggy Master
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