|Marcelin, five kilometers
away in the Isère valley. They were the real thing, made exclusively
of goat's milk, and not, as too often now, with a mixture of goat's and
cow's milk. Her cheeses, which began as large heaps of white curd,
were left to dry for a long time in an open frame with fly screens on all
sides. After three or four weeks these globs turned into extremely
pungent cheeses, hard as rocks, a quarter of an inch high, and not bigger
than a silver dollar. Only rarely is one able to procure such delights
now, for a debased public taste demands pasteurized and processed goat
products which look and taste much like cream cheese.
AN INGLORIOUS RETREAT
Our idyllic life on the
farm came abruptly to an end on May 10, 1940. The Germans had attacked
Belgium, going around the Maginot Line. The war was now on in earnest.
We were shipped north toward the front. From Chambaran, where we
had been hastily assembled, we were loaded into requisitioned passenger
railroad cars and told to stop the German advance with our World-War-I
guns. Leaving the Isère region on the 17th, we did not get
far. A few miles north of Angers, on the Loire, at a military camp
near Meslay, we heard that there was no need to go any farther, since the
Germans were coming toward us. There was no longer a line of defense,
though some were speaking about resisting on the Loire. We were told
to retreat as best we could, toward Angers, about forty kilometers to the
south. No trucks were available. We would have to go on foot.
After marching a whole day in
the searing heat and most of the night as well, we disobeyed our Captain, who
wanted us to reach Angers before daybreak. Throwing ourselves to the
ground in a field next to the road hidden by a large hedge, we slept until dawn.
During the night, two German motorcycle scouts with machine guns on their
sidecars passed on the road only a few feet away from us. We did not see
them, nor did they see us. The usual spearheading tanks did not
materialize. They were probably diverted to Les Ponts-de-Cé on the Loire, where a battle was in
Soon after daybreak we
arrived at the outskirts of Angers, which was defended by two farm carts
drawn across the road, with a rusted pistol lying on one of them.
The people, who had seen the German sidecars drive into town, told us that
the Germans would most likely secure the railroad station, as they had
inquired about this objective in particular. Since the scouts had
not been followed by any stronger detachment, our Captain decided to make
a run for the station to see if we could escape by train. Leading
us to the railroad yard, he commandeered ten cattle cars and a yard engine.
While loading our equipment into the cars, some of us noticed that the
freight train on the next track was loaded with wheels of Roquefort and,
a little farther down, two cisterns of red wine. We took our fill
of both, leaving some of our men behind, drunk under the opened spigots.
Pulling out of the station,
we could hear bombs and artillery fire to our left, from the Bridges of
Cé, where the Cadets of Saint Cyr took a stand with a few rifles