All of the subjects covered by Invisible Bordeaux over the past twelve months have been an absolute pleasure to compile and research. I...

2012 in review: the year’s most rewarding Invisible Bordeaux items

All of the subjects covered by Invisible Bordeaux over the past twelve months have been an absolute pleasure to compile and research. It feels wrong to be singling any of them out, but here are five subjects that proved particularly interesting when peeling the layers away! Click on the titles or pictures to read the articles.

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2012 is drawing to a close so the time has come to take stock of the past twelve months and finish off with a couple of items looking bac...

2012 in review: the year’s most popular Invisible Bordeaux items

2012 is drawing to a close so the time has come to take stock of the past twelve months and finish off with a couple of items looking back on some of the features produced on the blog throughout the year. This first set rounds up the five most-read articles, which are a varied bunch in terms of subject matter. Click on the titles or associated pictures to read the items!

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|| PART OF A TWIN FEATURE PUBLISHED WITH INVISIBLE PARIS! || One of the most influential (and yet often overlooked) sons of the Bord...

Max Linder: the overlooked silent movie star from Saint-Loubès


One of the most influential (and yet often overlooked) sons of the Bordeaux region is Max Linder, the successful actor, director, screenwriter, producer and comedian of the silent film era.

He was born Gabriel Leuvielle on December 16th 1883 at the home of his wealthy vineyard owner parents in Cavernes, a district of the quiet town of Saint-Loubès to the north of Bordeaux, close to the south bank of the Dordogne river. Growing up, Gabriel showed little interest in viticulture and instead he found himself to be fascinated by the shows put on by travelling entertainers and circus troupes. He rapidly developed an interest in drama and theatre.

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The haven of tranquility that is Place Georges de Porto-Riche is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, despite being a stone’s throw away...

Place Georges de Porto-Riche: the secret square


The haven of tranquility that is Place Georges de Porto-Riche is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, despite being a stone’s throw away from the hives of activity that are Rue Saint-Catherine and the Grand-Théâtre.
Georges de Porto-Riche
(source).

The square is named after a playwright and novelist who was born in Bordeaux in 1849 and spent much of his life in Paris. After a short period working there as a bank clerk, his initial breakthrough came aged just 20 when his first historical dramas were performed at theatres in the capital. Around the same time, his first collections of poetry were also published and well-received.

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Looking at the picture on the left, readers familiar with Bordeaux will have recognised the Colonne des Girondins , which stands at the w...

1907 International Maritime Fair: when Bordeaux was the maritime capital of the world

Looking at the picture on the left, readers familiar with Bordeaux will have recognised the Colonne des Girondins, which stands at the western end of Esplanade des Quinconces. What is a more unusual sight is the extravagant “Grand Palais” structure to the right. This ephemeral edifice was just one of many built especially for festivities held between May and November 1907: we give you the international maritime fair, or “Exposition maritime internationale de Bordeaux”. 

The six-month extravaganza was the brainchild of the Ligue Maritime Française, an institution which aimed to develop and promote the nation’s military and merchant shipping industry. The decision was made to open up the exhibition to other countries, many of whom accepted the invitation to take part in the event which was also an excellent opportunity to commemorate the centenary of steam-powered shipping. From there the event developed further still to showcase other wide-ranging sectors of activity as well as being the venue for 50 trade conferences.

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Invisible Bordeaux has once again teamed up with real-world and online acquaintances to proudly present another set of faded hand-painted...

A second selection of ghost signs in and around Bordeaux

Invisible Bordeaux has once again teamed up with real-world and online acquaintances to proudly present another set of faded hand-painted adverts and signs or, if you will, "ghost signs"! (And don't forget that they can all be located in the handy dedicated GoogleMap!)

This first find is from the right-bank suburb of Carbon-Blanc. It promotes "Meubles Bayle", the furniture outlet founded in Bordeaux in 1854. In the early 1900s, heir Émile Bayle went on to set up a number of neighbouring shops catering for different furniture needs and tastes on Cours d'Albret in central Bordeaux (or "Bx" on the ad, the "ET" probably being the final letters of "Albret").

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The card game “ 1000 Bornes ” is a perennial toy department bestseller in France, with more than 10 million sets having been sold. The...

'1000 Bornes': from Edmond Dujardin's basement to international success


The card game “1000 Bornes” is a perennial toy department bestseller in France, with more than 10 million sets having been sold. The story began in a basement in Arcachon.

Arthur Dujardin, whose pen name was Edmond Dujardin, was born and raised between the wars in Lille. He was a musician and prolific inventor who began trading as a printer then as an author of highway code books and driving school teaching materials. In the 1940s, he began to suffer from acute asthma and travelled to Arcachon to take in the town’s renowned quality sea air. Dujardin elected to stay and, in 1947, moved into number 63, Boulevard de la Plage.

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|| SECOND PART OF A TWIN FEATURE PUBLISHED WITH INVISIBLE PARIS! ||  In the closing paragraph of the previous post , Invisible Bordeaux ...

Tracking St James’ Way pilgrims towards Santiago de Compostela – part 2: Bordeaux

In the closing paragraph of the previous post, Invisible Bordeaux was poised to enter Bordeaux via the inland route from Le Bouscat as followed over the years by thousands of Way of Saint James pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain: the el Camino de Santiago pilgrimage known in France as les Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.

The 8.4-km route through the city itself, which has been added to the Invisible Bordeaux GoogleMap, leads out of Le Bouscat along Avenue de Tivoli. A small square marks the official arrival in Bordeaux... and that may just be a scallop-shaped sculpted feature there to greet the pilgrims!

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|| PART OF A TWIN FEATURE PUBLISHED WITH INVISIBLE PARIS! || For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have followed routes from differ...

Tracking St James’ Way pilgrims towards Santiago de Compostela – part 1: Le Bouscat


For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have followed routes from different parts of Europe to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain, where it is believed that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. The pilgrimage is what the Spaniards know as “el Camino de Santiago”, the French as “les Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle”, and what English-speakers call “the Way of Saint James”.

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Bordeaux trams have become such an integral part of the landscape in the city that they even feature on postcards. The 21st-century transp...

The VAL light railway network that never happened


Bordeaux trams have become such an integral part of the landscape in the city that they even feature on postcards. The 21st-century transport infrastructure could have been very different though because, for many years, the plan was to build a light railway network which would have looked something like the artist’s impression pictured left.

Trams in Bordeaux are nothing new. Horse-drawn trams were introduced in 1880, followed 20 years later by the city’s first electrically-powered trams. The network went from strength to strength over the following decades, and by 1938 160,000 people were travelling daily on the 38 different lines, which covered a cumulative distance of 200 kilometres – many lines extended beyond the city itself to suburbs such as Créon, Cestas and Saint-Médard-en-Jalles.

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In this internet age there is an active online community of people who track down ghost signs, those faded hand-painted advertisements an...

Ghost signs: phantom letters continuing to haunt the walls (chapter 1!)

In this internet age there is an active online community of people who track down ghost signs, those faded hand-painted advertisements and signage from bygone years which have somehow survived this far into the 21st century.

In France, particularly rural France, ghost signs (such as the one above to be found in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc) remain a fairly common sight. With a little help from real-world friends and Twittersphere acquaintances, here is a first selection of a few such adverts and signs to be spotted in and around Bordeaux. A dedicated GoogleMap (which has also been added to the right-hand menu) will help you locate them all. There will be many more to come in other posts further down the line!

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A fourth self-guided walking tour of Bordeaux is now available to download and run on different iDevices. The latest addition to this ran...

New guided walking tour now available: Elegant Bordeaux

A fourth self-guided walking tour of Bordeaux is now available to download and run on different iDevices. The latest addition to this range of lovingly handcrafted tours will take you on a meandering walk through the most elegant parts of the city.

Setting out from Esplanade des Quinconces, the two-hour Elegant Bordeaux Tour trek takes in the fine architecture, picturesque streets, peaceful market squares and magnificent churches of the Chartrons and Saint-Seurin districts.

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A few months ago, as part of a twin Invisible Bordeaux / Invisible Paris feature, we reviewed the formative years spent in France by ...

Mitt Romney’s Latter-Day Saints basecamp in Talence


A few months ago, as part of a twin Invisible Bordeaux/Invisible Paris feature, we reviewed the formative years spent in France by Mitt Romney, the unsuccessful Republican candidate in the 2012 US presidential elections. During the six months he spent as a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints missionary in Bordeaux in 1968, the apartment he called home was on Place du Maucaillou in the Capucins district. Meanwhile, the centre of gravity of his missionary activities was this Mormon chapel on Rue Pierre-Romain in Talence.

This was the first Mormon church to be built in France (there are now 110 serving 36,500 members). The land, in a quiet residential part of the suburb, had been purchased by the Church in 1963 and the architectural project was initially overseen by the movement’s Thor Leifson. At the time the ward numbered around 35 members and, ahead of the chapel being built, they congregated in an abandoned villa situated within the grounds.

The foundation stone of the chapel was laid on June 8th of that year, some time before the building permit was delivered; the project was rubberstamped by authorities the following October. Construction work could begin in earnest and was wholly handled by missionaries – including a 16-year-old who had travelled down especially from the Breton city of Rennes – and volunteers. At times, there were 50 people working on the site. Church members who couldn’t help with construction work per se contributed by washing and ironing the missionaries’ clothes and by bringing them home-cooked meals. Members also helped with funds by symbolically purchasing bricks of the future chapel, each one costing 1 franc.


Meanwhile, demolition work on the villa was reportedly carried out by a company called Navarro, whose manager had been unwilling to take on the project until he discovered it had been commissioned by the Mormons. It turns out Navarro was a literal Bible believer who had recently returned from an expedition searching for the remains of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat in Eastern Turkey. He had come back with pieces of petrified wood that carbon dating showed were 4,400 years old… whether they were bits of the Ark is another story! 

Throughout the transitional phase, the congregation would meet in prefabricated premises. But by the summer of 1964, the exterior was complete, and attentions turned to the interior which was more or less finished by mid-1965, when the chapel was used to hold sessions of a nationwide youth conference. A few finishing touches later, the chapel was officially inaugurated on December 10th 1965 by Mormon “apostle” Howard W. Hunter (who later went on to serve as president of the movement over a brief nine-month period between 1994 and his death in 1995). The chapel’s consecration followed in March 1967. 


Howard W. Hunter obviously paid a return visit in 1968. In a feature published by The Boston Globe in 2008, photos credited to Marie-Blanche and Jean Causse show Romney alongside Hunter both outside and inside the chapel in Talence. In the top photo Romney is standing fourth from the left, Hunter ninth. Bottom right is the same backdrop 44 years later!
Although precise figures are hard to come by, the Talence ward went from strength to strength over the following ten years, with activities including schooling for 35 children, scout troops, public-speaking and drama clubs, dance lessons, not to mention couscous soirées and fancy-dress parties with a recurrent Wild West theme.

The chapel apparently continues to enjoy a healthy working relationship with the municipality and no doubt continues to serve as a meeting point for new generations of missionaries. Will any of the current crop go on to become prominent political players in the future? 

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Mormon chapel, 10 Rue Pierre-Romain, Talence 
> The account of Romney's time in Bordeaux and Paris  
> Detailed history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in France
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !

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This statue of Charles-Michel Lespée, or Abbé de l’Épée, and his supporting cast of young girls are looking out over the grand main entr...

Castéja: the former school for the deaf with an uncertain future


This statue of Charles-Michel Lespée, or Abbé de l’Épée, and his supporting cast of young girls are looking out over the grand main entrance of a building known as “Castéja” and named, like a neighbouring road, after Pierre Castéja, mayor of Bordeaux between 1860 and 1863.

At the time of writing, Castéja is a massive empty shell and set to become a residential complex led by Gironde Habitat, comprising 180 apartments, an underground car park and a pre-schoo maternelle. The building’s glory years as "L'Institution nationale des sourdes-muettes", an educational institute for deaf and dumb girls from all over France, are therefore long gone.

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Invisible Bordeaux first crossed the path of architect Hector Loubatié when researching the Ciné-Théâtre Girondin near Barrière de Pess...

Hector Loubatié’s architectural endeavours in Bordeaux and Pessac


Invisible Bordeaux first crossed the path of architect Hector Loubatié when researching the Ciné-Théâtre Girondin near Barrière de Pessac. It soon emerged that there were many more interesting examples of the Bordeaux-born architect's eclectic vocabulary to be uncovered in and around the city and its suburbs.  

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In the early years of the 20th century in France, the boom in personal hygiene and a desire to swim coincided with the rise of art deco ar...

Bègles Piscine Les Bains: rejuvenating Gironde’s oldest swimming facilities

In the early years of the 20th century in France, the boom in personal hygiene and a desire to swim coincided with the rise of art deco architecture. In some cases, the phenomena combined, resulting in places like the “Piscine Les Bains” establishment to be found in Bègles.

Officially opened on December 4th 1932, the pool was the first of its kind to start operating in the Gironde département. It had been commissioned two years earlier by the town’s Socialist mayor, Alexis Capelle, and was executed to the designs of local architect Louis-Alfred Blanchard. Various specialists brought their specific expertise to the decorative mix: a painter named Bime, a sculptor named Vignal, the ceramist brothers Castiaux and the enameller Duvigneau.

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Working on this website has provided a means of discovering some inspiring places and stories. It has also been a way of unearthing some o...

Camp de Souge memorial: remembering 300 wartime executions

Working on this website has provided a means of discovering some inspiring places and stories. It has also been a way of unearthing some of the more horrific chapters in the recent history of Bordeaux and Gironde. The memorial to be found at the Camp de Souge military base is one such find. 

The Camp de Souge covers 7,000 acres of land to the north west of Martignas-sur-Jalle, some 20 kilometres to the west of Bordeaux. It has been a military base since 1900 and is today home to the French Army’s 13th “Régiment de dragons parachutistes”, providing accommodation and vast areas which are dedicated to training drills and manoeuvres. Souge is also a flight test centre for military and civilian unmanned aerial vehicles.

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[April 2015 update: the boat is now in Arcachon] On the southern edge of Arcachon Bay, the Port du Canal in Gujan-Mestras is home to a ...

Yves Parlier’s hydro-glider: resting in peace in Gujan-Mestras

[April 2015 update: the boat is now in Arcachon]

On the southern edge of Arcachon Bay, the Port du Canal in Gujan-Mestras is home to a number of oyster farmers, fishermen and ship-builders. It is also here that a record-breaking high-speed catamaran conceived by renowned Arcachon-based sailor Yves Parlier has seemingly been left to rest in peace in full view of all-comers. What is more, at the time of writing, it can be yours for €250,000.

Originally unveiled by Parlier in 2004 after six years in the making, the boat is the “hydraplaneur”, a 60-foot (18.28m) carbon fibre “hydro-glider”. She was designed by a partnership known as Aquitaine Design Team and manufactured by Chantier Naval de Larros (CNL). The boat’s main innovations were its twin rig with a mast on each hull (unlike on trimarans where the central hull supports the mast), and the “stepped” hull design, inspired by the use of this shape on seaplanes enabling the aircraft to take off and land at high speed.

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The annual Journées européennes du patrimoine take place on September 15th and 16th. A number of places previously featured on Invisibl...

Journées du Patrimoine 2012: the Invisible Bordeaux selection!

The annual Journées européennes du patrimoine take place on September 15th and 16th. A number of places previously featured on Invisible Bordeaux will be open to the public, while others are on my list of things to see and write about!

Here is but a small selection of the places to see in Bordeaux itself, bearing in mind that throughout the region a whole host of fascinating venues are taking part in the event!

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Perhaps the most surprising sight in the quiet residential town of Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc is a 1/5 scale model of a 1960s Diamant A rocket ...

Diamant A: a little bit of Space on Earth in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc

Perhaps the most surprising sight in the quiet residential town of Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc is a 1/5 scale model of a 1960s Diamant A rocket positioned in the middle of a roundabout.

The model, which was funded by the space technology company EADS Astrium and manufactured by Matisa, was unveiled by the local mayor in November 2009. It celebrates the contributions made by engineers in the town to the Diamant A project, which formed part of President Charles de Gaulle’s plans to develop an independent nuclear defence system at the height of the Cold War.

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On Rue Charles-Domercq, a side-street adjacent to Saint-Jean railway station, a 1929 building continues to reign supreme: the former Bord...

Centre de tri postal: no longer processing rail mail

On Rue Charles-Domercq, a side-street adjacent to Saint-Jean railway station, a 1929 building continues to reign supreme: the former Bordeaux postal sorting office.

The structure was designed by the Toulouse-born architect Léon Jaussely (1875-1932), who had been appointed chief architect of the postal services in 1914 and is also famed for his extravagant “Hall de la Dépêche du Midi” in Toulouse and the “Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'Immigration” in Paris.

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What is the connection between t he aircraft electronics specialist Thales Avionics, a flower bulb and seed company in Carbon-Blanc, and...

Toussaint-Yves Catros: the lasting legacy of a royal gardener


What is the connection between the aircraft electronics specialist Thales Avionics, a flower bulb and seed company in Carbon-Blanc, and a giant artichoke on a roundabout in Macau? The answer is the gardener Toussaint-Yves Catros.

Toussaint-Yves Catros was born in the Breton town of Saint-Brieuc in 1757 and defined himself as a “cultivateur de pépinières” (tree nursery agriculturist), an occupation which had already run in his family for a number of generations. His first big break came when he relocated to Paris and was chosen to oversee the royal tree nurseries in the 8th arrondissement (Faubourg-du-Roule quarter) and in Vincennes.

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The tall steeple of Saint-Seurin church is one of the most outstanding features of the Médoc village of Lamarque, best-known as the left-...

Dôme Panoramique de Lamarque: a bird’s eye view over the Médoc and Gironde estuary

The tall steeple of Saint-Seurin church is one of the most outstanding features of the Médoc village of Lamarque, best-known as the left-bank departure and arrival point of the small ferries that criss-cross the Gironde estuary (the right-bank counterpart being the town of Blaye).

The church itself was built over a 40-year period between 1830 and 1870. Its steeple was topped off by a dome which, come 1968, was in a critical state of disrepair. The dome was dismantled and the steeple remained in its decapitated form for a number of years.

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I am extremely pleased and proud to have been interviewed by Sud Ouest journalist Catherine Darfay. The resulting feature appeared in t...

Sud Ouest feature: "The man with the yellow bike"

I am extremely pleased and proud to have been interviewed by Sud Ouest journalist Catherine Darfay.

The resulting feature appeared in the August 10th 2012 issue of Sud Ouest (Bordeaux and greater Bordeaux editions). The article serves as a fine introduction to the story and thinking behind Invisible Bordeaux, reveals how I go about producing the pieces... and has gone some way to making my yellow bicycle a celebrity in its own right!

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We are in the quiet town of Sainte-Hélène, located mid-way between Bordeaux and Lacanau. Across the road from the water tower, tucked in ...

Villa Quand-Même et Mépris: contemplating contempt 80 years on!

We are in the quiet town of Sainte-Hélène, located mid-way between Bordeaux and Lacanau. Across the road from the water tower, tucked in between the bakers' and the community hall, is a curious, narrow, landlocked house that was built in 1930 by one Mr A. Naturel.

In the late 1920s Mr Naturel, a pork-butcher by trade, was looking to purchase a plot of land where he could construct a building that would be both his shop and family residence. He found a spot which was centrally-located in the town but which was far too small for his plans.

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The small triangular Place Picard in the Chartrons district is home to one of the world’s many replicas of the Statue of Liberty...

Statue of Liberty: enlightening the world on Place Picard


The small triangular Place Picard in the Chartrons district is home to one of the world’s many replicas of the Statue of Liberty. The recently-restored resin model which can be seen today has been in position since 2000, but the presence of the statue on the square goes back much further.

Of course, the marginally better-known full-size version of the statue in New York (full name: “La Liberté éclairant le monde” or “Liberty Enlightening the World”) was executed to the designs of the French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) and given by France to the United States in 1886 as a memorial to America’s independence.

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La Nécropole Nationale du Natus  is a memorial located just off a winding forest road to the south of La Teste-de-Buch, by the Bassin ...

Camp du Courneau and the Natus necropolis: the story of France’s WW1 Senegalese infantrymen


La Nécropole Nationale du Natus is a memorial located just off a winding forest road to the south of La Teste-de-Buch, by the Bassin d'Arcachon. It offers a poignant reminder of one of the saddest chapters in the history of the First World War: the lives and deaths of hundreds of soldiers at the Camp du Courneau military base.

In 1914, with war raging in Europe, France made the decision to seek reinforcements from overseas, most notably from Senegal, a French colony at that time. Two transit camps were set up away from the frontlines to welcome, train, organise and rest these extra "tirailleurs sénégalais" (Senegalese infantrymen). One was in Fréjus on the Mediterranean coast, the other was Camp du Courneau, on a parcel of newly-irrigated marshland where rice used to be cultivated between La Teste and Cazaux.

From April 1916 until July 1917, the camp accommodated an estimated 27,000 (some say up to 40,000) Senegalese infantrymen who had arrived by boat in Bordeaux before being ferried by rail to Courneau. The conditions were rudimentary though and the poor hygiene contributed to the loss of 940 soldiers – in other words, 940 victims of war who succumbed to illness rather than enemy fire on the frontline.

Senegalese soldiers on Rue du Port in La Teste (source: La Teste-de-Buch à travers les siècles).
Life on the camp for the Senegalese with their mascot,
a sheep (source: arcachon-nostalgie.com).
The final stop for many Senegalese troops.
On the camp, up to 60 men would squeeze into one of the 400 barracks which measured 6 by 30 metres. The shelters were not waterproof for long and rainwater would seep through into the dwellings. Small stove heaters offered little warmth for the troops who found it hard to adjust to the European climate and damp terrain. Laundry was washed in the canal that ran between Cazaux and the Bassin d’Arcachon. The only electrical power available was in the hospital tent.

In front of the barracks (source: La Teste-de-Buch à travers les siècles).
Washing clothes in the canal (source: arcachon-nostalgie.com).
The canal today.
Despite methodical daily cleaning procedures, the cramped living quarters and aforementioned conditions meant that illness spread like wildfire, with most of the deaths of the Senegalese being caused by lobar pneumonia (although it is believed that the bacteria had been brought over from Africa). From June 1916 onwards, the bodies were buried in a mass grave and later transferred one kilometre, forming a mound in a place known as Le Natus. To this day, the necropolis and memorial form one of the most harrowing sites/sights in the region.

 


In 1917, subsequent to the departure of the Senegalese (those who were still alive had been sent to fight in the Battle of Chemin des Dames), the camp became home to Russian troops who had been committed to the French front. 16,000 Russian troops were sent to France but many rebelled. Around 6,500 of the reluctant soldiers eventually ended up at Courneau around the time of the October Revolution in their home country. On the camp, a laissez-faire atmosphere reportedly reigned; many of the men devoted much of their time to alcohol-fuelled outings to Bordeaux and Arcachon. Twelve Russians died at Courneau and they too are buried at the Natus site.

US forces at
Camp Hunt (source:
La Teste-de-Buch à travers les siècles)..
In January 1918, the camp was transferred to US forces, who had joined allied operations six months earlier. They demanded the departure of the Russians and set about improving conditions on the site, which became known as Camp Hunt and was mainly used for artillery practice by the 165th then 161st Field Artillery brigades. The Americans (of whom there were almost 16,000 in all) were reportedly popular with locals. One soldier, Jerry Pearce, even ended up marrying a Bordeaux girl and descendants remained in the area.

They too lost a number of men through accidents and illness. 87 bodies were buried on a plot of land just yards away from the Natus grave of the Senegalese and Russian troops. After the Second World War, the remains of those US troops were transferred either back to the States or to the American military cemetery in Suresnes near Paris. The memorial remains.


While there is no way a humble blog item could possibly do justice to such a vast topic, former top rugby player (and now Doctor) Serge Simon went much further by filming “Une pensée du Courneau”, a revealing documentary broadcast by France 3 Aquitaine in November 2011. When researching the subject, he uncovered unsettling evidence of experiments which had been carried out on the Senegalese, "who were relegated to the state of human guinea pigs".

One Dr Joseph Kérandel, affiliated with Institut Pasteur in Paris, had been drafted into the camp to eradicate the lobar pneumonia epidemic sweeping through the troops. Though incurable in these pre-antibiotic times, it was hoped the illness could at least be prevented and Kérandel developed a vaccine in under four weeks. The product, which had not been tested on animals, was widely administered to Senegalese soldiers and results were monitored and documented with a view to subsequent capitalisation and more extensive deployment of the vaccine.

When revealed at the time, news of the life-size experiments resulted in Kérandel being dismissed, but a commission decreed that Institut Pasteur and the military could continue to administer the vaccine in order to use up the 6,000 doses they still had. According to Serge Simon, quoted by newspaper Sud Ouest, “the vaccine was neither dangerous nor effective, but experiments were undeniably carried out on humans. If there hadn’t been all those vaccines to get rid of, the camp may have been abandoned earlier.”

In research carried out since this Invisible Bordeaux article was originally published, writer Eric Joly has however established that the vaccine was derived from a formula used with success on miners in South Africa. Was Kérandel's dismissal therefore misguided?

Tall fences surround the former camp.
Either way, the Nautus memorial offers a disturbing reminder of this painful heritage. There are still a few remnants of the camp itself, with visits very occasionally being organised in agreement with the local military (the zone is part of a wider military base that encompasses an area twice the size of Paris). Most of the time though it is hidden deep in the forest behind tall impenetrable fences, out of sight... but it is our collective duty to ensure that what happened there is never out of mind.

2018 centenary update: on November 10th 2018, after years of painstaking research by local historian Jean-Pierre Caule and the ONAC (Office National des Anciens Combattants), plaques featuring the names of the Senegalese soldiers were unveiled. 

> Find them on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Nécropole Nationale du Natus (or Nécropole Nationale de La Teste-de-Buch), Camp du Courneau 
> Other archive pictures in these two YouTube clips:
 
 


Further reading: 

> Full information including detailed figures tracking the death toll
> Slate Afrique article 
> Sud Ouest article and interview with Serge Simon
> Sud Ouest piece about Eric Joly research

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On Cours du Général Gallieni, one of the main thoroughfares that connect Bordeaux with the suburb of Pessac, the recently-restored faça...

Ciné-Théâtre Girondin: the façade remains the same

On Cours du Général Gallieni, one of the main thoroughfares that connect Bordeaux with the suburb of Pessac, the recently-restored façade of the former Ciné-Théâtre Girondin offers an instant means of rewinding almost 100 years.

The cinema was completed in 1919 and opened in 1920. Located close to the Barrière de Pessac, it was one of a number of cinemas that popped up on the periphery of Bordeaux. Its construction had been commissioned by a local man who had achieved fortune either in the United States or Argentina according to which source you refer to. What is generally agreed though is that the architect's designs were inspired by a structure in Argentina.

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This week saw the launch of the first spin-off of the Invisible Bordeaux project : a set of guided walking tours that are available to do...

Bordeaux Walks: guided walking tours of Bordeaux on your iPhone

This week saw the launch of the first spin-off of the Invisible Bordeaux project: a set of guided walking tours that are available to download and run on iPhones, iPads and other iDevices that may or may not yet exist. 

The tours aim to provide visitors (and locals!) with interesting itineraries through the city that take in a host of sights of architectural, historical and cultural significance. As well as written word, the guides feature full audio commentary and original photography.

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As we saw in part 1 of this piece , Arcachon’s Place Fleming was the focal point of Englishman Reverend Radcliff’s influence on the ...

Arcachon’s Place Fleming, part 2: Saint Thomas church and the Promenade des Anglais


As we saw in part 1 of this piece, Arcachon’s Place Fleming was the focal point of Englishman Reverend Radcliff’s influence on the town of Arcachon, but it also formed the backdrop to a royal birthday…
But first of all, back to Saint Thomas church, described by the British novelist George Gissing as “the prettiest Anglican church in France”. Sadly, the chapel fell into disrepair towards the middle of the 20th century, its expatriate congregation having dwindled to virtual nothingness. In 1974, the chapel was acquired and renovated by the Église Réformée de France, ironically enough the very movement who had originally welcomed the Anglican congregation to their temple 100 years earlier. The first service under the new denomination was held there on March 9th 1975.

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Deep in the elegant Ville d’Hiver district of Arcachon sits a quiet square: Place Fleming (originally Place des Palmiers). Landmark...

Arcachon’s Place Fleming, part 1: Reverend Radcliff’s paper chases and handbooks

Deep in the elegant Ville d’Hiver district of Arcachon sits a quiet square: Place Fleming (originally Place des Palmiers). Landmarks include its bandstand and a church that, since 1974, has belonged to the Église Réformée de France movement. However, the chapel was originally an Anglican church built to serve Arcachon’s British community and founded in 1878 by one Reverend Samuel Radcliff.

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