Page 5, 1st December 1939

1st December 1939
Page 5
Page 5, 1st December 1939 — GENERAL GAMELIN his friends think him a born soldier

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Locations: Rome, Paris


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GENERAL GAMELIN his friends think him a born soldier

By BERTRAND LASCAUD (one of General Gamelin's school friends) Two little boys, dressed in the black uniform of their school with big white starched collars and trousers It la Zonave, entered No. 262, Boulevard . Germain, Paris—in the year 1880.

Between the child of eight and the general of 67 years there exist still to-day certain similarities; my friend, the general Gamelin, has still the same blue eyes, which generally show such a kind expression, but sometimes look rather stern and cold.

His father. Zephyrin Gamelin, was controller of State. Many evenings and nights he studied the details of State expenditure. If I remember rightly M. Gamelin was chief controller for Army expenditure. The smallest expense was checked by him, and nothing escaped his eyes. He was a serious man with a very young face. He was a staff officer like his father before him had been a staff officer, and since the days of Louis XV the ;Arany Gamelin had produced not less ik an five generals.

Maurice C.-in-C.

Maurice looked very much like his father, and they liked each other, but his devotion and admiration belonged to his mother. Not very talkative by nature, he made very few friends during the time he spent at the old Stanislas College. He was much smaller than I, but much stronger, and his great pleasure was to organise games. At ten years of age he had already developed a gift for commanding, and many elder boys were willing to follow his orders.

Between our teachers and inspectors there 713 ft S 055 man tc: 0 showed Maurice the road to fame and glory. Ho was a very serious-minded man, even gloomy sometimes, like many of our teachers, and his name was— Henri Bandrillort. To-don he is Monseigneur, the Cardinal.

Among his more intimate friends I was probably the one to whom he spoke more freely about his aims than to any other.

" What I would like to do . . ."

One evening in July, 1880, Maurice and I walked through the yards of our monastic school. He had his hands behind his back, as was his habit, arid we discussed the many things concerning our future. You understand, if one is twelve years old, the question of the future is of overwhelming importance. " Father wants me to become an engineer, Mother would like me to win the Prize of Rome and to become a painter, but I, you see, would like to go to St. Cyr and to become a general like my grandfather Auguste." And so it happened.

The final examination at. St. Cyr in the year 1139e was probably the most dramatic ever witnessed in that old school. There were at least twenty of us who had a chance to win the first honours. I myself had no intention of competing in the struggle, but my favourite was my friend Gement,. think that this too was the first time in the history of that old institute that bets were made who would win that competition, a fact which came to the knowledge of the commanding officer, and we were all duly punished. It was the idea of one of our comrades, and at the start the bets were 4-1 for Gamelin. My bet was 20 frs. on Gamelin—it was all the money I had.

For a fortnight we were in a state of expectation. Then the results were made known. / had won my betGamelln had won the first honoure, six points ahead of the next beat cadet. It was indeed a triumph.

Practice or Theory

Gamelin joined the third regiment of the Algiers Tirailleurs. first as a lieutenant and later BA a captain. In the evenings ha loved to go through once again all the different subjects that we had studied together at St Cyr. He always remembered with much gratitude the time he had spent at the old military college. I remember, too, that some of us had advised him to become a teacher instead of joining the Army, and I believe that for a moment he hesitated whether he should become a professor at a military school.

His other wish was to satisfy, as far as that was possible in a military way, his taste for design. For this purpose he entered the geographical institute of the Army, where his gift for designing maps won him new honours.

He was the first who dared to illustrate with email but detailed drawings the °Menefee dry and stern maps of the Army. It was he who later on explained to his students that colourful description and exactness go very well together. The maps of General Ganielin were shown to all officers and even to civilian& "Tres Bien" Gamolin left the staff college with a certificate "tree Nen," signed by General Foch. Shortly after I met him, and he told me that he wanted an active life and that he bed no longer the desire to become a teacher or even a controller.

"I think that 1 could do some useful work in the colonies or somewhere else"

The French Colonial Empire fascleated him. He was dreaming of wide irontiers and of his beloved France as the greatest military power in the world.

Later he joined the staff of General Joffre. For this job he competed wits three other officers.

General Joffre's choice was justified; Gamelin was part author of the famous "Orilla% No. 2," which won the battle of the Marne. From that time Joffrs became Gamelin's friend and showed him full confidence.

My friend Gamelin is now the first soldier of France, chief of all the French forces. His dreams that he discussed with me in the gloomy yards of Stanislats College have come true.

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