Monday, April 6, 2009

Letter of Condolence
Firstly Jill if your relative is willing a genealogical search could be useful. Rodrigo Manolo Saenz de Castillon resident in Vaulx en Velin, Lyon, France at a villa named as Ara Coeli between 1860-1890 say then in Paris and later apparently in London from 1910-1914 also Liliane Sanza age unknown living in London in 1921. Are you sure this will be ok I mean genealogical researchers usually put a high value on their time.
Secondly yes any ghost writing, perhaps I should say editing, yes editing is better would be in respect of the diary.
I have now completed a translation of that letter which I call a letter of condolence which may interest you and which I incorporate in this e-mail.


Chere Mademoiselle Sanza,

It will no doubt seem strange and perhaps a little macabre to you to be receiving a letter of condolence for your late guardian after all this time(and this from a person most likely unknown to you) but the reason for this is that until now I have not been in a position to communicate with you. However I would now like to extend my deepest sympathy to you for your grievous loss and give you some information (as a first-hand witness) as to the events of that fatal day, 22nd September 1914, when Rodrigo was lost to us, apparently forever, although I know that in the official military records he is still listed as missing and I am sure that that is how he will be regarded by you and rightly so as much work is still being done to try to finally ascertain the facts concerning the many thousands of our gallant soldiers whose final fate is similarly unknown.I had known your guardian since the days of our military service in 1886 - oh those happy far-off days which seem so sweet now in recollection - we served our time in the 88th Regiment of Infantry. In recent years I had lost touch with him but when I reported for duty in August 1914 to the Depot at Chalons there he was and our friendship was renewed. I was not a little surprised when he told me that due to some financial difficulties he had been living in London since 1910 but that he had felt honour bound to return to serve France in her hour of need. During our conversations he mentioned you and told me that you had brought much happiness into his life after the end of his marriage. He showed me your picture which he carried with him at all times. We were sent to the Front almost immediately and took part in the disastrous frontier battles which ended in our almost catastrophic retreat - the Boche seemed unstoppable. Rodrigo behaved with the utmost bravery at all times which seemed to some of his fellow officers to border on the reckless but those were desperate times for us.Then came the rightly named Miracle of the Marne and the Boche were in their turn in retreat and the 88th Regiment of Infantry was in pursuit. It was a pleasant experience to be advancing again after what had seemed like an eternity of retreat and on the night of 22nd September we rested on the outskirts of Saint Remy La Calonne a small town to the south-east of Verdun that bore the scars of the Boche passing through. The next morning we received orders to attack a strong enemy position on a hill opposite to attempt to prevent the Boche from consolidating his position there but as we moved forward through open fields we came under heavy and prolonged shell fire and the order was given to halt and dig defensive positions until our own artillery could be brought up, however Rodrigo led his company forward regardless (perhaps he had not heard the order, I don't know) and as the shelling became more intense he and his men vanished into storm of steel and smoke and we could hear the rattle of machine-gun and other small-arms fire. That was the last seen of them. We frantically dug what trenches we could as the shells rained down and many men were killed and wounded and then the Boche counter-attacked in force and overwhelmed our position. I was wounded and rendered unconscious by loss of blood and when I regained consciousness I was in an enemy field dressing station where my wounds were being treated. From there I was taken to a field hospital behind their lines and when I had recovered sufficiently I was transported to Germany to begin a long internment (almost 5 years) in a prisoner-of-war camp - a medieval Schloss in East Prussia. We were fairly treated under the Geneva Convention but as the war dragged on and Germany was reduced to famine almost by blockade things became more difficult and we were sent by day to work on the land which was a welcome relief in many ways from the intense boredom of confinement in that grim castle.The war ended but our repatriation was held up by the outbreak of revolution in Germany and the chaotic state of the transport system. When I finally got back home in the late Spring of 1919 in a weakened state I fell easy prey to la grippe but was lucky enough to survive that deadly disease and am now fully restored to health apart from a permanent limp, the result of my wounds. I realise how fortunate I am to have survived the hecatomb that devoured the lives of so many gallant men, so many of them my friends and acquaintances. I recently made a pilgrimage to Saint Remy la Calonne where the War Graves Commission is establishing a necropolis and where many men of the 88th are now re-interred in proper graves. At present in its unfinished state it is a cheerless place but in time no doubt it will be as pleasant as these places can ever be. As I stood there in that place of sacrifice I felt a terrible sense of guilt at having survived where so many better men had died and knowing how precious you were to Rodrigo I determined to write and tell you that I feel for you deeply and that I too will not forget him. It took me some time to find your address but eventually I obtained it from his notary here in Lyon.Dear Mademoiselle Liliane if I can at any time be of assistance to you do not hesitate to call on me.

Yours most respectfully


Marc-Henri Dutourd

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