Jump to content


Remembered Today:

Photo

'Last Absolution of the Munsters'


844 replies to this topic

#51 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 16 December 2006 - 02:32 PM

Hello all,

as I promised a few time ago, here is the photo of painting, original or copy, taked in the town hall of RICHEBOURG.

I hope you like it

If you need others information, let me know

Michel

Attached Files



#52 ian turner

ian turner

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,643 posts

Posted 16 December 2006 - 08:11 PM

Michel,

Thanks for the photo of the picture. Hard to tell, but I think this may be a reproduction. Compare with the image of my post on page one of this thread. Something about the quality of the colours makes me think this one is not the original.

That said, I guess it is hard to tell from a PC screen! Anyway, interesting to see and glad at least something of this wonderful image is on display somewhere.

Ian

#53 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 16 December 2006 - 10:32 PM

Ian,

I agree completely with you, it is very although this picture, even if it is a pale copy, is in the village where the scene occurred, in memory of these heroes who lived their last moments.

I want to try to found where that was, I leave very near "la rue du bois"

Michel

#54 ian turner

ian turner

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,643 posts

Posted 17 December 2006 - 05:41 PM

Michel,

Good luck in searching the location. I am sure there are many of us who would be interested to see the modern-day location to compare.

Thanks

Ian

#55 Audax

Audax

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweat
  • 838 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 18 December 2006 - 10:08 PM

QUOTE (michel knockaert @ Dec 17 2006, 09:02 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Ian,

I agree completely with you, it is very although this picture, even if it is a pale copy, is in the village where the scene occurred, in memory of these heroes who lived their last moments.

I want to try to found where that was, I leave very near "la rue du bois"

Michel


Michel,

I think you need to find a pre 1914 map of the area. Look for the wayside shrine on the map.

A

#56 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 29 December 2006 - 04:30 PM

Audax,

it is a good idea, may be it is a shrine or a chapel, there were and there are many of these in the contryside

many thanks

#57 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 02 January 2007 - 11:21 PM

Hi all,
my investigation advances with great steps.

With the hazard of the purchase of a book devoted to the area of "the béthunois", I discovered a heading devoted to the Chapel of Notre Dame de Seez, located at Richebourg L'Avoué.

the text, in French, is like this:

" the chapel is located at the hamlet of "l'Epinette" with Richebourg l'Avoué. The history of this chapel is related to that of the regiment of 2nd Royal Munster Fusilers ordered " by Lt-colonel Victor RICHARD who received on saturday evening May 8, 1915, of his chaplain the Reverend Father GLEESON, a last absolution before entering the battle of the coast of aubers, where it was to find death with a great number of his men.

EIn 1935, his widow, Lady Colonelle RICHARD, offered the painting representing the scene of "the last absoluton of the Munsters", according to the artist MATANIA, who throne inside the Chapel Notre Dame de Seez. "

If I am able to scan the photograph of a post card showing inside of the chapel, I wil post soon in this thread.

#58 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 03 January 2007 - 12:00 AM

hi,

as promised before, here is the photo of the page concerning the chapel and the painting
(credit Editions Alan SUTTON).

I think the chapel still exist today, I will check that this week

cross fingers

Attached Files



#59 ian turner

ian turner

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,643 posts

Posted 03 January 2007 - 11:27 AM

Michael,

Good work. Look forward to the next info. Thanks

Ian

#60 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 08 January 2007 - 04:29 PM

a thing is sure today, the chapel does not exist more, it was definitively destroyed by the administration of the "Ponts et Chaussées" during work of rectification of a turn of the "rue du bois" which is a departmental road.

Be a little patient the epilogue arrives all gently.

#61 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 12 January 2007 - 10:47 PM

hi all,

here, with the pleasant authorization of its author, an extract of book “RICHEBOURG mon village”, pages 217 AND 218, written by Mr Michel CORBEIL, eminent specialist in the local history of RICHEBOURG :

Chapelle NOTRE DAME DE SEEZ :

[i]- au n° 78 de la rue du Bois
- actuellement disparue, elle a fait l'objet de sa démolition par l'Equipement du Pas-de-Calais, en raison de
l'aménagement de cette portion de la rue du Bois (elle devrait sans doute être reconstruite).
- construite en 1867 par la famille LEROY-POTTIER
- détruite durant la guerre 1914-1918
- reconstruite en 1929
- bénédiction en Août 1929

Cette chapelle a fait l'objet d'un fait historique très émouvant :

Actuellement, dans la salle de la mairie est accroché un tableau peint qui représente une scène de bénédiction de soldats anglais.

Ci-dessous, relation de Monsieur le Curé TABARY :

""""La dernière absolution donnée par l'Aumônier, le Révérend Père GLEESON, aux soldats du 2ème Régiment Royal "Munster Fusillers" montant aux tranchées de "la plaine du Bois", le samedi soir 8 Mai 1915.

Le temps était beau ; les vergers couverts de fleurs répandaient un parfum pénétrant... Les peupliers étaient immobiles dans le calme du crépuscule ; ils se détachaient comme des flèches de clocher dans le ciel serein.

Lorsque le régiment fut arrivé à la chapelle de l'EPINETTE - Notre Dame de Seez - le Colonel RICHARD fit halte. Les hommes se rangèrent en carré ouvert, fermé par les Officiers et Adjudants, les drapeaux verts, brodés de la harpe irlandaise et du mot MUNSTER, placés en face de chaque compagnie.

L'Aumônier à cheval avança au milieu, fit une courte allocution et donna "l'absolution générale" après laquelle les soldats entonnèrent un chant religieux et patriotique. Ils reprirent alors leur marche devenue silencieuse, à cause de la proximité de l'ennemi.

Il y a de nombreuses étapes, ajoute le narrateur, dans le pélerinage, que nous appelons la vie, mais il n'y a aucune marche qui soit comparable à celle que l'on fait vers la tranchée, le soir, à la veille d'une bataille. Il n'existe aucun arrêt plus sacré, plus recueilli que le nôtre, en cette circonstance, auprès d'une chapelle rencontrée sur le bord de la route.

Parmis les hommes qui prièrent là, la plupart montaient pour la première fois aux tranchées ; ils arrivaient de l'Irlande ; c'étaient de tout jeunes gens de KERRY, de CORCK. Ils étaient néanmoins débordants d'enthousiasme, car leur foi, leur idéal élevé les remplissaient d'une ardeur qui dédaignait le danger.

L'assaut du lendemain fut des plus meurtriers : le Colonel fut tué, ainsi que beaucoup de soldats.""""

Le tableau a été exécuté d'après le croquis que fit à l'hôpital un Sergent blessé et les notes fournies par la veuve du Colonel RICHARD.

La forme extérieure donnée à la chapelle ne ressemble pas à la chapelle de l'EPINETTE ; on comprend que le souvenir de ces détails n'ait pas été précis.

Le "moulin L'Avoué" dessiné dans le fond n'a été signalé que par la carte d'Etat-Major car, à cette date, il était déjà détruit.

Le corps de l'un de ces soldats du 2ème Régiment Munster Fusillers a été découvert le 20 Octobre 1925, au cours d'un labour de la plaine du Bois.


It is voluntarily, by respect for the text of the author, that I did not translate it into English, certain forms of French syntax being difficult to restore in another language. However, if some among you wish it, I can nevertheless try to do it in the way nearest possible.

very sincerely

Michel

#62 ian turner

ian turner

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,643 posts

Posted 13 January 2007 - 08:54 PM

Michel,

Thanks very much for this info. I have enough schoolboy French to understand - if I get it right, the roadside calvary is not an exact representation of reality and the windmill in the distance had already been destroyed by the time of the depicted event?

Nonetheless, as we can anyway see, the paiting captures the real moment of a spiritual pause on the eve of a battle in which many of the young soldiers would perish.

Appreciated.

Ian

#63 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 13 January 2007 - 10:17 PM

Ian,

I see that you really very included, I congratulate you for your brilliant analysis on the text on Michel CORBEIL and father TABARY.

I think that in a few days, with the assistance of the cadrastal maps of the Town hall of RICHEBOURG, going back to before 1914, I could locate the exact place where the facts occurred and to take photographs and more precisely, a photograph with an angle of sight similar to that of the painting.

For the moment I am with a few tens of meters near, I will not be long in succeeding, with my greater joy besides.

If there is something which interests you on the history of Richebourg and the surroundings, let me know it, I will have a pleasure of trying to find for you (and for the others of course).

thank you for your encouragements, I have the feeling to do something for the memory of these poor men which left to dead with such courage and abnegation.

Friendly

#64 ian turner

ian turner

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,643 posts

Posted 14 January 2007 - 10:33 AM

Michel,

With this topic it is a combination of several things (probably same for us all).

1) A very moving painting, and brilliant in its representation of the event.

2) So all the more interesting to see today where the event took place. (Can we recognise anything in the modern view)?

3) The sense of duty (as you mention) to those lost is what anyway motivates us all here, n'est ce pas?

I await more with interest.

Thanks

Ian

PS - I've seen the artist's work in books on the Great War all my life, usually only in black and white, so the coloured image adds much more, and his work I find looks so realistic.

#65 jpc

jpc

    Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 218 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Cork, Ireland

Posted 15 January 2007 - 10:41 AM

Michel,

Thank you very much for all of your posts on this subject. As someone with an interest in the Munster Fusiliers, I hope to be standing on the Rus du Bois next Saturday, and thanks to your post, maybe I will be able to stand on the exact spot.
I also hope to visit Le Touret where most of the Munsters who fell on the 9th of May are commemorated - photo requests welcome, I just hope that the weather is good.

I quote, below, from a letter written by CSM James Leahy, of the Munster Fusiliers, concerning the 'Last Absolution' and the action of Rue du Bois:-

‘I know it is about time I wrote you a letter, but I can tell you we have had a fearful time. No doubt you saw in the papers the glorious name again earned by the regiment. Well, if ever heroes were born the fellows were. I have been in some dirty work since the start, but, my God, the 9th of May will ever live in my memory. It was the spirit of everyone that was so astonishing. Several days before we knew that at 5.37 a.m., on 9th May – it was death or glory – that the German trenches which were impregnable since October were to be assaulted, yet there was never such a happy laughing crowd.
The day previous to the charge close on 800 men received Holy Communion, wrote their names and home address on their hymn books. I have seen sights, but the faith, piety, and sincerity of that congregation, each man knowing that death was staring him in the face, would make anyone in this world proud to be a Catholic.
The night before the charge we lay on the road a short way from the trenches, Father Gleeson went down the ranks, saying words of comfort, bidding goodbye to the officers, telling the men to keep up the honour of the regiment. At dawn then on that lonely dark roadside, lit up now and then by intermittent flashes from our own or German flares, rose to heaven the voices of 800 men singing that glorious hymn ‘Hail Queen of Heaven.’ There were no ribald jest, or courage buoyed up with alcohol, none of the fanciful pictures which imagination conjures up of soldiers going to a desperate charge; no, there were brave hearts without fear, only hope that God would bring them through, and if the end – well, only a little shortened of the allotted time span. Every man had his Rosary out reciting the prayers in response to Father Gleeson, just as if at the Confraternity at home, instead of having to face death in a thousand hideous forms the following morning.
Then dawn broke, a beautiful morning, the sun shining brightly, just a day that makes you feel that life is worth living – the beauty of nature did not worry the boys, they were more intent on oiling the mechanism of their rifles and looking to their bayonets, and I can vouch for it that a more happy or jocose crowd never lived. Every fellow was laughing and joking even when the most terrific bombardment in the history of the war was raging, shells of all sizes both ours and Germans, shrieking overhead in one continuous moan.
Five minutes before the bombardment the order was given by the officers: ‘Are you ready, lads? ‘Yes,’ came the cry. Then over and over the parapet like one man leaped 800 forms, the four green company flags leading. The first trench was taken in no time, then on to the second. But what a hail of lead met those gallant men. The ground was dotted with brave Irish soldiers, yet on they went. The green flag was raised on the parapet of the main German trench, and in they went. The numbers to reach the objective were too few to hold the position, and eventually, and with reluctance, they had to retire. The words of the Commander of the 1st Army was enough to show what a splendid achievement had been accomplished. – ‘Men,’ he said, ‘I am proud to command such a gallant regiment. You were the only battalion to penetrate and storm the German trenches although under a hellish fire. You have added another laurel to your noble deeds during the present campaign. You will now return to rest, and another day when wanted I know you will do anything within human power to uphold the traditions of your regiment and the army.’


Regards,

JPC

#66 curranl

curranl

    Major

  • Old Sweats
  • 453 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 10:46 AM

Hello All,
Just a word of caution: If I remember correctly, the artist (Matania) did not actually witness the Last Absolution, he painted it from a description he recieved from an eye witness to the event. Therefore the location, shrine and sorrounding countryside may not look remotely like it did in the picture.

It's still a magnificent and poignant picture!

Regards,

Liam.

#67 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 16 January 2007 - 12:48 AM

jpc,

many thanks for your post, it's very impressive and poignant.

Friendly

#68 Ozzie

Ozzie

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,581 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:North east Vic. Aust.
  • Interests:Reading, Reading, reading.Lighthorse, Aussies on the Western Front.
    At present side tracked with restaurant but have an interior brick wall built in 1914 in the function room that houses my WW1 stuff. It draws a lot of interest.

Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:53 AM

Thanks Jpc.

kim

#69 jpc

jpc

    Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 218 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Cork, Ireland

Posted 16 January 2007 - 11:12 AM

Company Sergeant-Major James Leahy survived the Rue du Bois action but was later killed at Loos on the 25th of September, 1915, while attempting to bring in the body of Major Considine. An appreciation sketch was published in the ‘Cork Examiner’ newspaper in October 1915, from which I quote:-

‘Through the death of Company Sergt.-Major James Leahy, of the 2nd Munster Fusiliers, his regiment has lost a splendid soldier, one whose gallantry gave a lead even to its brave men, whose sense of duty was not surpassed by the highest in command, and whose character was irreproachable. Co.-Sergt.-Major Leahy was well known in Cork, particularly in the South Parish, [Cork]. When a boy he spent two years in the office of Mr. M. J. McMullen, who was at one time City Engineer, and he later entered a solicitor’s office. Being of an adventurous disposition, the life of a soldier appealed to him, and he joined the 2nd Munsters. Having completed seven years’ service, he re-engaged for a further term two months before the declaration of war. He left for France on August 12, 1914, was at Mons, and all the later principal engagements.’

He was given the Last Rites by Fr. Gleeson and I quote from a letter Fr. Gleeson wrote to Leahy’s father:-


‘I was attracted towards the spot, the really dangerous part of the firing line. At last I met four Munsters carrying a stretcher. Hastily laying it down, they ran towards me saying, ‘Father, hurry up, the poor fellow is dying, poor Sergeant-Major Leahy.’ I administered the Sacrament of Penance and Extreme Unction, and said the prayers for the dying. The bullets began to come pretty close and thick. I ordered the men return to the shelter of the trenches. Lying flat on the grass beside the stretcher, I watched the last struggling gasps of your saintly son. He was a typical Irishman and a model Catholic. He got wounded going out to bring in the body of Major Considine.’

#70 jpc

jpc

    Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 218 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Cork, Ireland

Posted 16 January 2007 - 11:20 AM

I attach pictures of Fr. Gleeson and CSM Leahy

#71 Sullivan

Sullivan

    Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 236 posts

Posted 16 January 2007 - 09:21 PM

Jean,

The 1915 diary belonging to Father Gleeson is held by the R. C. Dioceses of Dublin.

Email contact for their Archives is archives@dublindiocese.ie

You may be able to obtain some reference to Leahy as Father Gleeson did write up names in the back of the Diary.

See my web page http://royalmunsterf....net/q1menu.htm

Also there is a brief reference to CSM Leahy in the history of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, if you would like copy of page let me know.

Regards,

Sullivan, also from Cork but many years ago.

#72 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 17 January 2007 - 10:48 AM

James,

I am peeling carefully the information published on your site.

The chapel "Notre Dame de Seez" was not on the territory of Neuve Chapelle, but on that of Richebourg (l'Avoué at that period)

La "rue du Bois" starts at the exit of the village of La Couture, just on the level of the memorial of "Le Touret" and in this place it is already the village of richebourg which stops with the crossroads of "La Bombe" (Port Arthur).

After that crossroads, it is the village of Neuve Chapelle, and the road is also called "rue du Bois".

The chapel "Notre Dame de Seez" does not have anything to see either with the chapel "Notre Dame de la Bonne Mort which was close to the church of La Couture (my home's village).

Michel

#73 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 17 January 2007 - 12:23 PM

James,

for the saturday 8, it is exactly :

We march out from "Tombe Willot" (Locon) about 900 strong, our Commanding Officer being Major #Rickard and the Adjutant, Captain #Filgate - two of the kindliest men I have come across. We leave about 7.00. The scenes of enthusiasm are outstanding. I ride my horse. Give Absolution to Batt. during rest on road opposite "La Couture" Church between the shrine of 'N.D. de la Bonne Mort' and a and another shrine we have another rest. The men all sing hymns 'Hail Great St. Patrick'. I go further up - near the trenches and bid good bye to all. So Sad !!.


very friendly

Michel

#74 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 17 January 2007 - 12:29 PM

James,

for tuesday 11,it is :


Returned to "Tombe Willot", starting from W. Corner [Windy Corner] about 3.00am. All the stretcher bearers remained the night, as I did not like the idea of leaving till we got every man cleared from the Munsters Dressing Station. I persisted in this attitude and carried the rest in. We left when every single man had been evacuated. Poor Major #Rickard, Capt. #Hewett, Pte. #Leahy, and several other bodies were lying in a stall in the yard. We took care to have people put in care of the bodies till our return this evening, to bury them. Buried all the bodies this evening at W.C. [Windy Corner]. Capt. #Filgate and #Carrigan attended.


Michel

#75 michel knockaert

michel knockaert

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:LOCON - Pas-de-Calais - FRANCE
  • Interests:having searched during 25 years 2nd Lt Robert William STEAD
    2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Posted 17 January 2007 - 01:02 PM

James,

with regard to Neuve Chapelle and the photograph of the Christ who is in fact “Le Christ des Tranchées”, if it plait you, read this (credit: “Mémoire de Pierre”) :

Occupied by the Germans on October 28, 1914, recovered by the allies at the time of the battle of Neuve Chapelle (March 10, 1915), fallen down with the hands of the enemy in April 1918, Neuve Chapelle is definitively taken again in September.

On the territory of Neuve Chapelle, between the Portuguese and German lines, drew up the “Christ of the trenches”, old statue of martyrdom drawn up between the two lines. This Christ was unceasingly mitrailled.

However, in spite of combat which transformed the village into field of ruins, the Christ of the trenches continued to rise with the top of the sorry plain.

The Portuguese soldiers stationed in this zone then shelter it in their trenches to attract divine protection. In 1957, the Portuguese government asks that one make him gift of this mutilated statue.

In 1958, at the time of the fortieth birthday of the battle of the Lys, the Christ of Neuve Chapelle is transferred in Lisbon. Since this date, it is venerated in the church of the monastery of Bathalha.

very friendly

Michel