Au champ d'honneur...
At the field of honour General Pau decorates airman Captain Langlois
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. August 1914
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 5 from the series La Grande Guerre.
Public opinion in France was divided when war broke out. The Radical-Socialist government had been largely opposed to military spending and Jean Jauràs, the leader of the party and a committed antimilitarist, had challenged the passing of the 1913 Three-Year Law on military conscription. He was assassinated by a nationalist fanatic days before Germany declared war on France. Prominent, public ceremonies were therefore essential for the regime, such as this event of 24 August, when a pilot received the Cross of the Legion of Honour and was knighted with a sword taken from a German officer.
The artist's viewpoint includes a statue dedicated 'to the defenders of Belmont', a battle of the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71), which concluded with the Alsace-Lorraine region being ceded to Germany. The loss was keenly felt by ardent nationalists. This medal ceremony occurred the same day as the order to retreat was sent to the virtually annihilated French army in the Alsace provinces.
Unlike Britain and Germany, the French and Belgian armies did not at first adopt more camouflaged uniforms of khaki or grey, choosing to retain the regimental bright colours of the 19th century.
The French caption with English translation:
AU CHAMP D'HONNEUR. LE GÉNÉRAL PAU DÉCORE LE CAPITAINE AVIATEUR LANGLOIS
C'est en face du monument " Quand Même ", à Belfort, devant les canons et le biplan pris à l'ennemi que le Général PAU a remis le Croix de la Légion d'Honneur au Capitaine Aviateur LANGLOIS. Le Général PAU prononça les paroles suivantes : Au nom du Gouvernement de la République, je vous nomme Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur devant ces trophées pris à l'ennemi et vous donne l'accolade avec ce sabre pris à un officier allemand. Une foule émue assista respectueusement à l'inoubliable cérémonie, qui s'acheva au milieu de frénétiques applaudissements et au cri unanime de " VIVE LA FRANCE " (24 Août 1914)
On the field of honour. General Pau decorates airman Captain Langlois
It was opposite the statue 'Quand Meme' at Belfort, in front of the guns and biplane taken from the enemy, that General Pau presented the Cross of the Legion of Honour to Caption Aviator Langlois. General Pau gave the following speech: 'On behalf of the Government of the Republic, I appoint you Knight of the Legion of Honour before these trophies taken from the enemy and as an honour I knight you with this sword taken from a German officer'. An emotional respectful crowd attended the ceremony, which ended amid thunderous applause and a unanimous cry of 'Vive la France!'