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World War 1 at Sea - In Memory of


LOUIS BECHENNEC, Fireman (Stoker), French Navy, born 1894


with thanks to Daniel Bechennec

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Fireman Louis Bechennec (click to enlarge) return to World War 1, 1914-198

Three of the Ships he Served on:

Battleship (cuirassé) Charlemagne, launched 1895,
11,100tons, 4-12in/10-5.5in, 18kts

Auxiliary cruiser La Lorraine, built 1900, 11,400t,
 21kts, French C.G.T. liner La Lorraine in peacetime

Sloop (aviso) La Marne, launched November 1916,
600t, 2-65mm, 20kts


Award of Serbian War Merit Cross in Bronze by Alexander I, in Cyrillic

(left) Serbian War Merit Cross in Bronze  -  (right) Medal of the Veterans of 1870-1871

Selected pages from his Military LIVRET DE SOLDE
(Passbook or Identity Book)

 Cover Page

Pages 12 and 13
(left) Recruitment Details - (right) Seaman's Register (personal details)

Page 21
Ranks and Dates of Advancement
Page 25
Diplomas and Certificates

Pages 26 and 27
Ships/Depots, Dates and War Service - Details of Sea Time and on Land

Pages 48 and 49

......  the left hand page refers to landing in England on 26 October 1917 and an incident involving yacht  Winifred. No British auxiliary of this name has been identified and she may have been a civilian vessel
Naval Service

Military Identity Card - photographed wearing the cap ribbon of auxiliary cruiser La Lorraine II

Louis Bechennec joined the regular French Navy or Marine Nationale as a volunteer in 1913 for five years, training in Toulon as a fireman (chauffeur - stoker in British usage).
During the war he served on:

battleship (cuirassé) Charlemagne, 2 August 1914-6 April 1915
auxiliary cruiser La Lorraine, from 27 May 1915-1917
patrol boat (patrouilleur) Le Cyprin, Normandy Patrol Division, Cherbourg, from 26 October 1917
patrol boat Le Pierrot II, Gascony Patrol Division, Lorient.

Remaining in the Navy until 1920, he served on two French-built wartime sloops (avisos) of the Marne-class - L'Aisne and La Marne.


His French war medals are not known, but he was awarded the Serbian War Merit Cross in Bronze for taking part in the evacuation of the Serbian Army in early 1916 after their winter retreat though Montenegro and Albania to the Adriatic coast. Most were taken to Corfu where the Serbian Army was reformed.  Louis is believed to have been serving on auxiliary cruiser La Lorraine at the time.
His effects also included a medal identified as the Medal of the Veterans of 1870-1871. To quote:

"Gilt bronze medal in the form of a trophy of arms with loop for ribbon suspension decorated with laurel and oak leaves; the face with a trophy of military and naval arms imposed on standards above the motto ‘OUBLIER…JAMAIS!’ (Never forget - the loss of Alsace-Lorraine) .......  A national society of retirees who were veterans of the 1870-1871 war against Prussia (Germany) was founded on 1 January 1893 by Commandant Charet. It met with great success, attaining a membership of more than 300,000 within ten years."

This medal belonged to Daniel's great grandfather, Louis Henri, who was born in 1870 (the year of the Franco-Prussian War), did his military service in 1890 in the infantry and in the Great War, was mobilised on 31 March 1915 in the Réserve de l'Armée Territoriale de Quimper" (86° Regiment Territorial d'Infanterie ). He was hit in the eye by a stone on the 21 November 1916 and blinded.

Later Career and Life

He then joined the French Merchant Navy, sailing on steamships (vapeur) Titania, Hippolyte Worms, Styria, refrigerated ship (refrigerant) Rochefort, and steamship Grandlieu.

After his sea service, Louis returned home to Le Guilvinec , south of Finistère, in Brittany. He became a joiner and later a gravedigger, while his wife, Louise (pictured in traditional dress) ran a café and grocery store and also sold funeral-related articles.

Louis Bechennec

and his wife Louise Bechennec

Information & Images supplied by his grandson, Daniel Bechennec,
Daniel is an accomplished military artist. Some of his work can be found at  Missiles in the Malouines/Falkland

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revised  31/7/11