After four months now, the exhibition being held in the Archives continues to attract a flood of visitors, around 2500 at the last count.
School children or adults, in groups or individually, all have appreciated the guided visit, as well as the video.
The guides know how to adapt themselves to their public, visits are “tailor made”, and everyone leaves happy, sometimes full of enthusiasm and determined to come back.
As it is impossible to mention everything, we will limit ourselves to some particularly significant visits that we have received recently.
At the beginning of January, Ophélie Bourgeais came back to Kermaria with her mother for the third time. They are respectively, the great grand-daughter and the grand-daughter of the soldier Achille Hocquet, whose whole family was lodged at Kermaria from 1917 to 1919 at the request of Henri, the brother of Achille, and with whom we have recently renewed contact. They were able to see the finished display case dedicated to their family, where written documents from our archives figure alongside objects which the family have provided, such as the helmet of Achille who was wounded at the Chemin des Dames, and the place mats made by Henri during his convalescence at Kermaria.
Shortly afterwards, in response to our invitation, Mr Cariou, the brother of Sister Maria Joseph, long-time Juvenate Mistress, arrived with his wife. It so happens that one of the exhibition panels features a painting lent by a family which represents the battleship “Admiral Charner” torpedoed in February 1916 by a German submarine. Of the 400 shipwrecked crew men, only one escaped death. He was picked up in the open sea after 5 days spent clinging to a makeshift raft, exhausted, dying of hunger and thirst and yet sustained by a ferocious will to get back to his family and by his absolute confidence in God and Saint Anne.
This ‘miracle man’ (whose story can read on the Internet) was none other than the father of Maria Joseph and therefore of Mr Cariou. The latter was very happy to find the painting of the ship which, because of its strong link with Kermaria, makes it even more interesting when we tell the story to the visitors.
Among the group visits we must mention that of the Locminé section of the ex-servicemen in Algeria. They were interested by the war their grandfathers had fought. Despite the apparent differences, the one war like the other nevertheless generated doubt in their minds, a questioning of until now unchallenged assumptions, and for many a profound crisis of conscience.
At the beginning of March, a friendly family, whose grand-father passed the month of October 1915 convalescing at Kermaria, arrived from Maine et Loire. They passed on to us the letters the infantryman wrote during this time to his family, his fiancée and his former school master. In their realistic vision of the battle field as well as the depth of reflection on the war, they give an unparalleled testimony. As for Kermaria, he found himself in paradise, fearing however that he would leave “pickled in holy water” and deploring the fact that he had so many young and pretty novices to look at!
The exhibition will continue until at least the end of 2014. Come in your numbers to see it or to visit a second time. Note also that the concert evening of songs of the 14 – 18 war, which was a great success in October 2013, will be presented again on Sunday 11th May at 16h00 in the chapel of Kermaria.
Sister Emma Helgouac’h (Archivist)