Monday, August 27, 2012

"I want to be at peace with God"

Private Robert Boulanger, Mount Royal Fusiliers 
Killed in action at Dieppe (19 August 1942)
["D-Day Words" exhibition, Memorial Museum, Caen]

For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

'At peace with God'

Having celebrated his 18th birthday a few days before the Allied raid on Dieppe in August 1942, Private Robert Boulanger was the youngest member of his battalion, the Mount Royal Fusiliers ("Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal" in French) which recruited almost exclusively from the French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec. The regiment's Latin motto is 'Nunquam retrorsum' (i.e. "Never retreat").

Robert Boulanger was among the 1500 or so Allied troops to be killed in action during the Dieppe raid. Robert was one of a family of 10 children. In what would prove to be his final letter home, partly written just before embarking and partly during the crossing, Robert wrote that he received absoluton and Holy Communion from the chaplain, Father Sabourin.

In what would prove to be his last letter home Robert also wrote the following:

"I want to be at peace with God".

Robert's story, his photograph, letters home and other information can be found in the Memorial Museum, Caen, France. This was where I first came across Robert's story. One thing that marks Robert's story out is his young age - losing his life only a few days after his 18th birthday. Robert's family received confirmation of his death in December 1942 - just a few days before Christmas. Robert Boulanger's final resting place is in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, Hautot-sur-mer, Seine-Maritime, France.

In 2004 Robert's photograph (seen above) was used in a temporary exhibition in one of the galleries at the museum, "D-Day Words" ("Paroles du Jour J"). Robert's photograph was also used on the front cover of the book to accompany the exhibition.

CWGC citation

The Commonwealth War Grave citation for Private Robert Boulanger is as follows:

Rank: Private
Service No: D/114682
Date of Death: 19/08/1942
Age: 18
Regiment/Service: Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, R.C.I.C.
Grave Reference: L. 53.
HAUTOT-SUR-MER, Seine-Maritime, France.

Additional Information:
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Viatime Boulanger, of Grand-Mere, Province of Quebec.

Monday, 27 August, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Robert's letter home, 28 August 1941

Below is my translation of Robert Boulanger's letter home of 28 August 1941. It was originally written in French.

Pte. Robert Boulanger
D 114682, F.M.R.
2nd Infantry Holding Unit
Canadian Army Overseas ,

August 28, 1941

My dear parents,

It is my pleasure to write a few words to you and tell you I am in perfect health. Duty has called me to defend our beautiful Canada. There is one thing I must advise you about. Robert, who has just been married, should not come overseas. You have done enough in sending your Robert.

I frequently go to London, the largest city in the world. I have travelled five thousand miles from Canada and to Germany it is another five hundred miles. It is close.

In the next letter I will send you a picture of the boat in which I crossed the ocean. We saw some whales and we also saw some German aeroplanes which flew over the larger boats. However, they were unable to sink us.

You must tell all my my friends in Grand-Mère that I send them my fond wishes. I must finish my letter my dearest parents, who have been so good to me for almost 18 years. I do not know if I will return. Here I am, along with all my friends, sleeping in tents. It is with tears of sadness that I must send you a fond goodnight, dearest Mom, Dad and all the family.

From your son Robert, who has not forgotten and loves you all.

Monday, 27 August, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Robert's last letter home, 17 - 19 August 1942

Below is my translation of Robert Boulanger's last letter home. It was written between 17 and 19 August 1942, partly before embarking and partly at sea. Robert's original letter was written in French.

Pte. Robert Boulanger
D 114682, F.M.R.

17 - 18 - 19 August 1942

A few minutes ago, we were gathered together ready for the fight. Even though I shouted "Hooray" like the others in the platoon, I do not feel very brave. But rest assured that I will never be a cause of dishonour to the family name.

In the place we are currently based our Colonel, Dollard Ménard, has told us where we will attack the enemy.

Our chaplain, Padre Sabourin, has gathered together all those who wanted to receive general absolution and Holy Communion. Almost everyone answered the call. I want to be at peace with God, in case something happens to me.

We were then invited to a sumptuous meal. We were served by female members of the Royal Navy Auxiliary. The tables were covered with white tablecloths and each of them was completely covered. A long time ago we were treated like this by the Military service.

I am continuing my letter on board our assault barge. We are lucky because the sea is very calm and the weather is beautiful. Boredom began to set in about 05:30 am. There are some who are cracking jokes, I guess it is because of the tension. I can feel it myself.

The moon gives out enough light so that I can continue. Two and a half hours ago we set sail and I must make it quick before it gets too dark. I want to take this opportunity to apologise for all the trouble I have caused you, especially during my enlistment. If I come back alive out of this adventure, and if I return home at the end of the war, I will do everything I can to dry up your tears, Mom. I will do everything in my power to make you forget all anxieties I have caused you to have.

I hope you received my letter from last last week. I celebrated my 18th birthday on the 13th, and I know I have no reason to go into combat. But when you learn how brave I have been, you will forgive me for all the trouble I may have caused you.

Dawn is already rising on the horizon. But during the night, I recited all the prayers that you taught me, and with much more fervour than usual.

A few minutes ago, I thought we had already begun the action against the Germans. Over there, on our left, was the roar of cannons and the sky lit up, or so we believed. It is much clearer now, and I can see much better to write. I hope you can read my writing. It warns us that we are very close to the French coast. I think it is because we hear the gunfire and the sound of explosions: even the whistling of shells passing over our heads.

I have finally realised that we are no longer to exercise. An assault barge directly next to ours has been hit and it disintegrated along with all those on board. We did not have time to see much, because in the space of a minute or two there was nothing left. O my God, protect us from such a fate! Until a couple of minutes ago they were our comrades and friends and now they are gone forever. It is terrible. Other boats in our group as well as other groups have been hit and suffered the same fate. If I should be among the casualties, Jacques will let you know what happened to me as we have promised to do this for each other in case the other one does not return.

I love you, and tell my brothers and sisters that I also love them from the bottom of my heart.


Monday, 27 August, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The official telegram

Initially, after the evacuation from Dieppe Robert Boulanger was posted as missing. It was only in December 1944 that Robert's parents received official confirmation that he had been killed in action on 19 August.

Below is my translation of the official telegram:

Telegram from Chief Military Archives
(To Mr. V. Boulanger, father)

World Wide Communications

CK.37 / 34 DL. PAID

Ottowa, Ont., Dec. 12/1944, 1.20 p.m.

Mr. Viatime BOULANGER,
62, rue St. Jacques,
Que. .

1226. We deeply regret to inform you that Private Robert Boulanger, D 114682, previously reported missing in action has now been officially reported by Berlin to have been killed during the engagement on 19 August 1944.

Further details will follow when received.

Chief of the Military Archives

Monday, 27 August, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Jacques Nadeau, Robert's best friend

Robert Boulanger was hit by a bullet between the eyes on the beach at Dieppe. He would not return home and he will always remain 18 years old. As previously mentioned, Robert Boulanger lies at rest in the Canadian War Cemetery at Dieppe.

Robert's best friend in the Mount Royal Fusiliers, was Private Jacques Nadeau. He was the 'Jacques' mentioned by Robert in his last letter home. As events turned out, it would be a long time before Jacques Nadeau would be able to tell the Boulanger family of what happened to Robert. But eventually he was able to do so.

Private Jacques Nadeau was seriously wounded during the assault at Dieppe and left for dead on the beach when the evacuation took place. He was found by locals on the beach and treated in hospital. Following his release from hospital, Jacques Nadeau became a prisoner of war of the Germans (POW No. 25438) sent to M/Stammlager VIII B, Germany (Lamsdorf) and liberated by the Russians in March 1945.

In August 2012, the 70th anniversary of the Dieppe assault Jacques Nadeau was one of the veterans attending the official commemorations. A particularly poignant moment of the day's commemorations was the visit of Jacques Nadeau to the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery. M. Nadeau stood with other veterans in front of Robert's grave and saluted their friend and comrade. Deep friendship such as this, forged in the horror and hardship of war, never ends.

Monday, 27 August, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A photograph of Jacques Nadeau saluting Robert's memory at Dieppe appeared in the New York Times report of the Dieppe 70th anniversary commemorations.

To see the photograph and read the 'New York Times' article about the 70th anniversary commemorations click on the following link:
Jacques Nadeau's salute ('New York Times').

M. Jacques Nadeau has also contributed an account of his wartime experiences, including the assault on Dieppe and his time as a POW, to 'The Memory Project'. The recording is mainly in the French language but an English lanaguage transcript is also given. Click on the following link to access Jacques Nadeau's wartime story:
Jacques Nadeau recording ('The Memory Project')


This article is dedicated to the memory of Private Robert Boulanger, F.M.R., and all those who died in the raid on Dieppe in August 1942.

"Dieppe: the first step on the road to victory".


The Memorial Museum for Peace, Caen

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

New York Times

Monday, 27 August, 2012  

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