The Frenchman

vlamertinge 2 loresThe Frenchman

When I first saw the war memorial in St Mary’s Church, one name jumped out at me. L Danzanvilliers. This conjured up all sorts of pictures in my imagination and I assumed he was almost certainly some kind of dashing aristocratic officer, probably with an enormous elaborate moustache. Later I discovered that his full name was Louis Marie Joseph Vital Danzanvilliers, but that very far from being an aristocrat, he worked in a hotel kitchen. Born in Paris, Louis joined The Suffolk Regiment and was killed on 13th July 1917. He lies in Vlamertinghe New Cemetery, a few miles outside Ypres in Belgium and was probably killed in preliminary shelling prior to the battle of Passchendaele. Only a few weeks ago, I suggested to my friend over there, Bart that he go out some time and take photos of a few Summerstown182 graves that aren’t far from where he lives. One of these was Louis Danzanvilliers. The only reason was that I knew that Vlamertinghe was quite close and there was already a bit of a connection. There is a very good photograph of a group of officers from the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers taken there in July 1917 and my Great Uncle is in the picture. Bart noticed that a recently-placed poppy wreath had been laid at Louis’ grave and on it a note. It read simply, ‘To Grandad, All my love, Marie’. The note also mentioned her husband’s name and from that small scrap of information, we are trying to find this lady and see if she might be able to tell us a little more about her Grandfather. We were quite hopeful that we might have found her in Staffordshire but the trail has gone cold. Louis was 39 years old when he was killed. He lived with his wife Caroline and young son, also Louis in a two-roomed property at 636 Garratt Lane. The 1911 census has him working as a ‘hotel kitchen stoker’, Caroline, like so many other women in the area worked in the laundry. Louis Junior, a ‘brass finisher’ was still living at this address when he got married twenty six years later. We think Marie is his daughter. This particular stretch of Garratt Lane heading towards Earlsfield, from Tesco right the way up to just before The Leather Bottle, has changed radically and all the old houses are long gone. I get my MOT done at the WLFE Motors garage at 640 and 636 would be facing Franche Court Road, roughly where the recently built Arrow Electrical showroom is. Sometimes I cycle home down Franche Court Road and the large glass-fronted showroom is spectacularly illuminated, perhaps in a style which would be agreeable to a french aristocrat. But we’ll have to wait until we contact Marie and see a photo of Louis to see if he really does have that fantastic moustache.

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