Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Augustin Trébuchon

Augustin-Joseph Victorin Trébuchon (30 May 1878 – 11 November 1918) was the last French soldier killed in the World War I. He was shot 15 minutes before the Armistice came into effect, at 10.45am on 11 November 1918. The French Army, embarrassed to have sent men into battle after the treaty with the Germans had been signed, recorded the date of his death as earlier by one day.

Augustin Trébuchon was born at Montchabrier (near Le Malzieu-Ville in the Lozère) on 30 May 1878, with four younger brothers and sisters. His mother died when he was young and his father nine years later. He had been in the army since the war began in 1914. He was a communal shepherd and played accordion at village marriages before volunteering for the army on 4 August 1914. He joined the 415th Infantry Regiment as a messenger. He had already served in the second battle of the Marne and at Verdun, Artois and the Somme before arriving in the Ardennes at the end of the war. He had twice been wounded, including badly in his left arm by an exploding shell. Promotion to second-class soldier in September 1918 brought the mention that he was "a good soldier having always achieved his duty, of remarkable calm, setting the best example to his young comrades."

Trébuchon is buried in grave 13 at the cemetery at Vrigne-Meuse.

The date on his memorial at Malzieu-Forain and in the village records is 10 November 1918. The Germans had asked for an armistice on 9 November and it came into effect on 11 November. Nobody knows who ordered the death date to be changed but it is said to be so for all French soldiers who died on 11 November. Speculation that the army was ashamed of sending men into battle knowing the armistice had already been agreed grew when the 115th Infantry Regiment was not invited to the victory parade through Paris on 14 July 1919.

Trébuchon is named on the village memorial as Victorin—his second given name—rather than Augustin.

A street at Vrigne-Meuse, where he died and where he is buried with 17 colleagues in the cemetery, has been named after him.

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