Alpine Infantry Soldier
Pierre Thomas (from Sainte-Foy-l’Argentière, Rhône)
“Petit piou-piou, soldat d’un sou” (Little chick, penny soldier) goes the old song, to the rhythm of which all generations have charmed away the boredom of long marches. Here he is, the young infantry recruit, a French lad, still timid but alert, his beret pulled down squarely on his head, over one ear like a veteran. He is the oldest of ten children, and he comes from the valley of the Rhône, the most beautiful and varied of all our valleys, where leaping streams carry down to the big river the image of hillsides carpeted in vines and chestnut trees, crowned with pure frozen peaks. A peasant and mountain dweller yesterday, tomorrow a soldier, and always valiant in his task, labouring with all his muscles and all his heart, dreaming of his home country, of the chimney in the roof smoking in the blue of evening, but drawing strength from finding there an extra reason to keep on hoping and finding courage. He never lacked courage at the times when it was most necessary, and he was never deceived by the hope that after so much suffering he would return to the peaceful valley that his heroism had saved.