OLt - SLt
Martial-Yves Marie Delon

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Dinan, Côtes-du-Nord, France

General information

Last known residence:
Angers, Maine-et-Loire, France
Tax officer
Roman Catholic

Army information

French Army
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Cholet, Maine-et-Loire, France
 —  8ème compagnie, 2ème bataillon, 77ème régiment d'infanterie  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Cabaret Bellevue, Nieuwemolen, Passchendaele, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)

Cemetery or memorial

There is no known cemetery or memorial for this soldier.

Distinctions and medals 1

Points of interest 5

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of wounding
#5 Place of death or original burial place

My story

Martial-Yves was born on 11 August 1893 in Dinan, Côtes-du-Nord department in Brittany. He was the first child of Antoine and Emilie Delon (née Chicoineau). Not much later, the family moved to Cherbourg, where father Antoine worked as a tax officer. In 1904, the family, which had by now expanded , moved to Indochina. While Antoine worked as chief customs officer in Bac Ninh near Hanoi and later as head of the statistics office in Hải Phòng, on the Red River delta, Martial-Yves experienced a carefree childhood. In 1907, the family returned to France. Martial-Yves finished school in Dinan and, like his father, joined the tax department. His place of employment became Angers on the Loire. A quiet life seemed in the making. But before he could devote himself to his career, Martial-Yves had to finish his army service with the 77ème régiment d'infanterie in Cholet. In April 1914, he was appointed caporal-fourrier, in charge of supplies. In the summer of 1914, the dark wheel of history grinded on relentlessly until it spinned out of control completely and erupted into the world fire that was World War I. On 2 August 1914, France declared war on Germany; two days later, Germany invaded Belgium.

On 5 August, the three battalions of the 77th regiment marched towards Belgium via Sedan. Near Bièvre, the regiment suffered its first losses on 23 August. The cruel scenes of wounded comrades were etched into Martial-Yves' memory, but there was not much time to dwell on the events. The regiment, lashed by rain at night and shells by day, retreated to France. The Germans were always on their heels. With a superiority in artillery, they drove the French ahead of them. Only at Reims, while the Battle of the Marne in front of Paris raged in all its intensity, did the front stabilise under a string of fruitless attacks and counterattacks. Meanwhile, Martial-Yves was promoted to sergeant-fourrier on 8 September. A promotion to sergeant-major followed on 24 September. On the 28th, he was appointed adjutant of the 8th company. In the following weeks, both sides seemed to accept the immobility of the front. The 77th regiment was at Prosnes, east of Reims, and as the digging around the village intensified, the artillery fire slowly died out, only to suddenly flare up briefly, almost as if it were an obligation. On 9 October, the regiment was relieved. At Villers-Marmery on Sunday 18 October, Martial was promoted to sous-lieutenant by Lieutenant Michel at a dinner with the non-commissioned officers. This news was immediately celebrated with a bottle of champagne. On 22 October, the regiment boarded the train at Mourmelon-le-Petit. Through the pleasant rolling countryside of Picardy, it headed for Flanders. At Cassel, the journey to the Belgian border continued by bus. Martial could appreciate the pastoral Flanders with its tidy farms and villages. The French were also impressed by the neatly dressed and well-armed British and Indian troops at Ypres.

On 25 October, the 77th regiment left Ypres on its way to Zonnebeke, the roads packed with French cavalry and artillery. Zonnebeke had fallen into German hands on 20 October. By 24 October, the Germans had already been driven out of the village by the 114th regiment. The Germans entrenched themselves on the Broodseinde ridge, east of Zonnebeke. The next day the attack continued and Broodseinde was taken. The 77th regiment lay in reserve behind British troops, watching from a moat along Ieperstraat. On 26 October, the French army command wanted to push on to Passchendaele, but the attack failed due to entrenched positions with machine guns. Countless dead were left lying in front of the lines. Many would never have a known grave. Martial and his unit moved through and across trenches filled with British and German dead. At the end of the day, the regiment relieved the British in the line. Although the French troops did not advance much towards Passchenaele on 26 October, it was decided to repeat the whole feat on 27 October, with predictable results. Martial and his men crawled up under heavy fire along the Ypres-Roulers railway line. They did not get far and Martial's section took cover in a trench in front of a broken-down farmhouse, littered with British dead. Wednesday 28 October, new day, same orders. The 135th regiment bit its teeth on Droogenbroodhoek before Moorslede. The 77th managed to take some trenches along the railway line and managed to dig in at Nieuwemolen. The 114th was in the direction of 's Gravenstafel. The provisional, shallow trenches became permanent. On 30 October, the 8th Company moved towards the front line to the left of the 135th Regiment. Artillery fire was intense on both sides. Occasional rifle shots crackled through the air. Nerves were tense, both sides feared an attack and alarm signals sounded on both sides of the no man's land.

In early November, the French Army leadership accepted reality. Further attacks were abandoned. Positions were reinforced. With the Franco-British attack drive tempered, the Germans regained the initiative. They had the superiority in artillery and were able to direct fire from the heights of Passendale, Moorslede and Beselare. German shells of all calibres hacked into the shallow trenches and foxholes. Under cover of a veiled moon, Martials's company was relieved on 1 November. They occupied trenches in Zonnebeke. On 4 November, under cover of a thick fog, they took over positions of the 135th regiment at Broodseinde. The trenches had been shot to pieces and were full of water. In front of the positions lay mutilated French and German dead, the ground around had been churned up by the many shelling. Four days later, they were relieved from the first line. They took up positions northeast of Zonnebeke about 800 metres from the first line. German pressure on the French lines increased. To the south, Geluveld, Zandvoorde and Hollebeke were lost. Wijtschate fell on 2 November. That same day, the positions between Broodseinde and Keiberg were overrun. Before Zillebeke, the British managed to hold out with French reinforcements. The positions were under heavy artillery fire. The shelling was often so intense that Martial could not leave his support. On 10 November towards evening, things calmed down again. Martial enjoyed a meal of pickles. After the meal, he and some officers played cards for the three cigars they had left. Martial won one. This everyday light-heartedness from Martial's diary was in stark contrast to developments elsewhere at the front. The 135th, 114th and 77th Regiments had now been in combat for more than 20 days. Morale was extremely low. The troops were exhausted, living conditions downright miserable; it was raining and the wind was howling over the ridge.

On 12 November, the Germans launched another attack. The 135th Regiment's positions at Broodseinde were overrun. The 5th and 6th companies of the 77th in the front line near Nieuwemolen were in danger of being surrounded. Martial's 8th company sent out to support the two companies, near Nieuwemolen. Martial was mortally wounded in the head by a shell hit. He died near Bellevue, at the junction of Schip street and Passchendaele street. According to a letter from Captain Villers, with whom Martial dined on the evening of 10 November, Martial was buried in Zonnebeke cemetery, along Roeselare Street.

In the meanwhile at Katte, between Zonnebeke and Broodseinde, the 33rd régiment d'artillerie held out. At close range they fired on the crest of the hill. The Germans hesitated and finally retreated after a counterattack by a huddle of French units. After this ultimate German effort, it began to snow. The offensive fell silent and the cold became the main enemy. The 77th, 114th and 135th infantry regiments remained in the Ypres Salient until the spring of 1915, when they were relieved by troops of the British Empire. As the war dragged on, Broodseinde was destroyed bit by bit; the Allies and Germans captured and recaptured it several times, until only the name remained.

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Letters - Postcards and Diaries (Personal) View
Letters - Postcards and Diaries (Personal) View
Letters - Postcards and Diaries (Personal) View

Sources 6

Bossy-Guérin, Sylvie., "Yves Martial Delon, un soldat dans la Grande Guerre." Cholet et la Première guerre mondiale. Geraadpleegd 08.08.2023.
Sources used
Delon P., "Journal de marche d'un poilus dinnanais du 5 août au 12 novembre 1914." (Le Pays de Dinan, 25 (2005)): 195-226.
Sources used
Deseyne A., De vergeten winter 1914-15 (Wondelgem, s.n., 1983) 271 p.
Sources used
Journal de marches et d'opérations: 77e régiment d'infanterie (Direction des Patrimoines, de la Mémoire et des Archives, Paris (DPMA), 26 N 662/7).
Sources used
Laurentin M., Carnets d'un fantassin de 1914 (Paris, Arthaud, 1965), 239 p.
Sources used
Les registres matricules et listes cantonales numérisés (classes 1867-1921) (Archives départementales de Maine-et-Loire, Angers).
Sources used