Joseph Lesage (1884-1918)
Soldier and artist in the First World War


“My regiment of 2000 men has lost 950 men, killed or missing. If I had not been a telephonist operator I might have been one of them” .


These were the words Joseph Lesage wrote on september 26, 1914 after the first big battle which his division fought near Nancy. For four years he was to remain a telehonist. The telephone post was normally situated immediately behind the field artillery in order to secure communication with the first line. The field artillery was always the target of enemy mortars, which often destroyed the telephone wires. Day and night repair work had to be done. A telephonist could be accommodated in a barn or devastated house. This was luxury ! Usually they had to dig their own hole in the forest or to find a place in the trenches. Four times Joseph Lesage’s post has come under bomb-attack. Only once did he get slightly injured.

"I am writing to you from my little shack. I am sitting in the straw, next to my telephone ".

2 - 12 - 1914

"Mortar shells destroy the wires of our equipment. Often we have to go out and creep through the bushes in order to find the damage ".

9 - 1 - 1915

"I am sitting in front of an instrument which looks like a piano, only it is 50 cm wide". 23-1-1915

23 - 2 - 1915


" Up to their waist in the mud of the trenches they repair, under a rain of mortar shells, the broken wires. It is horrific. If you knew! What a carnage! This has nothing to do with a normal war."

15 - 4 - 1915

" I am at an observation most which takes care of communication bij means of an electric Morse-lamp ".

28 - 3 - 1916